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

TAT Forum
April 2004

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


This month's contents:

Peace of Mind Despite Success (part 5) by Richard Rose | Light or Darkness by Henry David Thoreau | Fact & Fantasy by Bob Fergeson | Direct Mind Power by Gary Harmon | A Terrible Beauty by John Wren-Lewis | Poems by Shawn Nevins | Commentary on Going Within by Bob Cergol | Humor | Reader Commentary

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Peace of Mind Despite Success
by Richard Rose

~ From a 1984 talk in Akron, Ohio—Part 5
(continued from the March 2004 TAT Forum)

The next one [of the psychological laws mentioned in the March excerpt] is the "Law of Change." You start out and you establish a business—you go to school and they tell you how to open a business, they tell you how to succeed in business even, they tell you how to succeed in a profession. You want to be a doctor, you know what you have to learn? A little bit about medicine but a whole lot about keeping a stern, dignified look on your face. The conceit of knowledge, you have to have—to show that you know what's wrong with that person.

Sican mask If you want to be an attorney, you have to also wear a certain mask. Because you're not going to know nearly as much as you'll know ten years from now, but you can't wait ten years before you go into business, so you've got to pretend to know a lot. All the professions are basically poses. The ones that aren't are people who know where to get information. Mathematicians have their book of logarithms; they know where to get the stuff to solve the thing, or the reference books.

So we set down a science—business science. We say, "Well, we can sit on a street corner, count the cars that go by, call the Chamber of Commerce and find out how much the payroll is locally, find out how many cars go past this corner and how many nickels are in the pockets of the people in the cars—and they'll stop at our supermarket when we build it. The number of cars will justify the building of a supermarket." And this is a business science.

So they build a supermarket. And somebody else thinks, "That fellow's pretty smart, he must know something." So sixteen people build supermarkets, and everyone goes broke—because they didn't know all the factors. The unknown factors are in all points of life. Adolf Hitler had to face them. He had everything down—he was a mental scientist even, on top of it—but he didn't know all the factors. Because of the Law of Change.

Things change. Nobody knows why they change, but like I said—the dinosaurs are no longer here, so there's no use in the dinosaurs thousands of years ago making these little plans for the future.


The "Law of Equilibrium." The Law of Equilibrium is expressed in some eastern countries as karma. The Law of Equilibrium says that if you throw a ball against the wall, or strike an anvil with a hammer, the anvil strikes back with the same force that the hammer strikes the anvil. And the ball is struck by the wall with equal force as the ball strikes the wall.

There is a certain equilibrium set in everything, even in the biological pattern—they call it the "balanced aquarium of life," which the ecologists are trying to interpret and presume to be able to cooperate with—the law of equilibrium in ecology. But my argument there is that they don't necessarily know about the law of change. There may be laws of change in effect which will upset their belief or their direction.


We come to this "Law of Extra-proportional Returns." I realized when I was twenty-one years of age that I was tackling a monumental problem. And that was to cut the Gordian knot—to find my definition, to find where I came from, where I was going—and to do it in one short lifetime. And yet I decided I didn't have anything better to do even if I failed. At least I would die trying. This was my attitude.

So the next thing that I discovered was that there was a short-cut. There were several short-cuts. One of them was the idea that you don't learn, you become. Don't shoot for learning, one logical hypothesis after another until you discover the truth. The second thing was that there is action of your fellow human beings which brings on the exercise of the law of extra-proportional returns.

And I discovered this when I was doing contracting work. I was hiring people, and when I hired the second man, I found out that my bidding was amplified. Say you have two men on a scaffold. Now if you have a third man that works on the ground, he can hand stuff up to them or send it up on a rope, which will save them from running up and down a forty- or sixty-foot ladder. Consequently, the whole job will be expedited beyond, way beyond, what was expected from the addition of eight man-hours per day.

I discovered that if it took me ten days to do a certain job by myself, when I hired another man it took me the equivalent of eight days. I cut two days off. The two of us did it in four days instead of me doing it in ten.

Now you go down the line. You get to three, four, five. No matter what we work at, like in a research laboratory, you get more people involved as the experiment develops—it ramifies out until it becomes departments. Each one takes over a department—more people are involved, more people are employed. Then the discovery of some vaccine or some great new drug is possible.

In the spiritual search, or the so-called psychological/philosophical search, it is the contact with your fellows— the contact with your fellows has first of all the possibility that one fellow can, say, study astrology and devote ten years to it, another fellow can study Zen, another fellow can study Raja Yoga, and then—we did this, incidentally. In Akron, years ago when I was in my twenties. Some of the people are still alive in fact—or half alive.

One of them was into Subud. We met every month and laid our findings on the table, so to speak, and discussed things. And little by little you get to the process of elimination. One of them is better than the other—that's the process.

Incidentally, that's the direction of Truth. The direction of Truth is not a sensational Eureka! discovery. It's a gradual retreat—from garbage. And you know what's more garbage and what's less garbage, and you settle for what's less garbage until you find something that's still less garbage. That's the path to Truth. Not following some heroic personal creature down some brilliantly lighted path. No, no. You fight yourself out of the mud, out of the garbage.

And you also get that inspiration, that association, that reminder. Because what we need when we're doing this—your head is on the mundane, your head is on making a nickel, your head is on fighting your way through the problems of life, raising your children, or whatever. But you associate with a group of people, in honesty, with the idea of helping each other.

How do you help each other? You punch each other in the nose, that's how you help them. You stick your finger in their eye. You say, "Hey— you're slipping. You're kidding yourself. You're getting off the track." And—this isn't done in criticism—they immediately say, "You caught me in time." And then you go on.

But if they don't catch you, if you don't have that, you're going to have far less than proportional returns. Because you're going to forget for a year at a time. For a year at a time. And then some little thing will pop up, and you'll say, "Geeze. Ho-ho boy. I'm playing the fool; I'm playing this game like an animal. Where's the thinker?"

So then things start to move. I have seen what I consider miracles in the last twelve years of my life—absolute miracles—just from following this concept of extra-proportional returns. (Although it wasn't a concept; it was just work.) And if you work, it presents itself. You don't have to hear it from me. You'll find it.


Now a few more. One important one is the "Law of Complexity." Life is the result of the Law of Complexity. Life is in proportion to complexity. A paramecium doesn't have the manifestation of intelligence that the Homo sapiens has. He's not as complex; he's more simple in structure. So the more complex, the more cerebral convolutions, the more synapses and that sort of thing, the more can be expected.

Likewise, when you get a computer that has as many cells in it as we have neurons, maybe you'll have a very selective computer.

The last one that's very important, that I'd like to leave you with, is the "Law of Paradoxical Immanence in All Things Relative." Once you get to studying this, you find that with everything you approach there's a paradox involved in it. And the paradox allows you leeway to argue yourself out of it, if you wish. But once you know that there's a paradox there, you'll be wise to it, and you won't go arguing with yourself.

You have to more or less really give an extreme example of this to get the point across. One of them is the idea of murder as opposed to childbirth. Now to me, the most beautiful things on earth are babies, and the next most beautiful thing on earth is a pregnant woman. That's always been my view on life. Little helpless people and selfless people. The female in pregnancy is selfless, and totally wonderful.

So we say, "From this must come this wonderful baby. And we must be something wonderful doing this. And I say, "It's better to kill an old man who's dying of cancer than to bring a baby into this world." And of course, what we did right there was to create a paradox: I'm saying the most beautiful thing on earth is a baby, and I'm saying at the same time the worst thing you can do is bring one into this world.

When you kill an old man with cancer, you solve pain, you end pain. You end a miserable trip. When you bring a baby into this world, you damn him to a miserable trip. But maybe that's the only way. I'm not saying why. Maybe it's the only way we can get beyond the human. Maybe that's his opportunity to be beyond the human. That's another paradox.

So all the way down the road, you can't make positive statements, flat statements, about everything. Because we don't know what is on down the road, what they lead to.

You get angry when you hear certain things. I heard they executed a guy the other day. They said he killed 160 people. And there's a certain anger, you know, that he got away with it. At first I thought he was an idiot for killing the wrong 160. He just picked them at random, when there's some people, you know, that you might really like to kill.

Campbell Gate, Knox University But with all joking aside, we don't know. We don't know what happened there at all. I can't conceive of it happening to anybody. But it happened. He said he did it. We don't know why that was in the blueprint. It was in the blueprint—for some reason. And maybe we'll see a lot more of that stuff. Because it may be the herald of a catalytic change of something in the future.


I'd like for you to ask some questions now, so that I can get down to a little rapport or communication with you individually.

Question: The blueprint—does it start here on this earth, in this life, when you're born, or does it start somewhere else?

Rose: Now here's where the paradox comes in. The blueprint—as I understand it—is visible, it's evident. Where it started, I don't know. Again—did it start? Did it start?

At the time that I was very much aware of it—was when I was looking at things from an absolute position, looking down on this line of relativity in which there's no motion, there is no time. It's almost like a pencil line that's drawn on paper, just like a blueprint, and things automatically follow. When they get off—they become out of harmony with the paper, with the space-time continuum, if you want to call it that.

I don't know. I don't have the explanation for it. You know, we can say a lot of things, we can translate it into what I call familiar language—that a designer wanted things a certain way. And also the designer created a situation where when our egos get too far out in left field, they manifest their egotism by certain acts which would be contrary to the blueprint.

If we look at the goats and the sheep and the cows, we can see very easily that they are operating on a blueprint. We can predict their timing. Everything they do is predictable, down to the fine points. We don't bother to try to predict our own timing. But in time they will.

I believe, for instance, that there's a death gene. I've seen this in biological writings. Everyone is supposed to have a "clock" in their genes that will activate death at a given time. So if this is true, we have a pretty tight blueprint, individually and collectively.

The collective blueprint is what we call the laws of nature. That's what I'm talking about there. That's the perimeter, the periphery of our liberty. Our liberty should only go as far as the blueprint is designed for. And that's basically what is meant.

But I personally feel that it was done by intelligence. This was designed, not happened. I don't believe in evolution. I've got a lot of reasons—I mentioned in the book about the pterodactyl—I don't believe this happened by evolution.

For instance, we might get into this thing called AIDS. I don't recall hearing of it in history. Only in the last decade or two. So—you mean that suddenly there is a virus that evolved? It would almost have to be evolved from some mental source. Because I'm sure it wasn't needed. It wasn't needed to help the growth of biological life. It helped to hurt it.

So there's a tremendous lot of evidence that there's a designer behind this. Now immediately somebody's going to jump up and say, "Oh—you're talking about God." Well, I find that in an absolute dimension there's only one God. And when you get there, there are not two people. There is not you and God. So it leaves a singular type of being or essence—the projector of a fictitious thing in the form of a blueprint. A very orderly blueprint.

This world is fiction, in other words. The reality—this might sound strange to a lot of you, but believe me that is what you'll find—when the lights go out, you'll awaken to something much more real than this. Much more real. If you're prepared for it. If you hunger too much to visit previous experiences, you might wind up making the trip again, I don't know. If you like it too well here.

Q: Would you say there's a parallel between your idea of the reverse vector and the idea that the mind has a non-somatic basis?

R: The mind, as far as we're concerned, has a somatic basis, because it's tied to it. The physical mind is tied to the mind dimension.

Q: It seemed like you were saying that there is a transmutation of energy that takes place in a non-somatic area, which eventually....

R: Yes.

Q: Is there a connection between that and your idea of a reverse vector?

R: The whole thing is a reverse vector. The natural process—when I talked about the cycle of food—it's in a curved thing going back to the earth. The food is digested, which is a transmutation from plant life to human life. When you get up to the glandular level, when all the energy in the body seems to be going to the glands, then it's time for another transmutation to the neural level. But it doesn't have to go up there.

That's the reverse vector. But the automatic vector, the natural vector, takes us back into the earth. In dissipation, boozing, dope, whatever.

This is where the reverse vector comes in. You take it on up—when you transmute the neural energy into spiritual energy. I call it spiritual, but that's a loose word, because it means "above mental." You transmute food into mental energy, for mental expertise, genius, wisdom, memory, that sort of thing.

Q: Would you speculate on the nature of this material, this spiritual energy?

R: Well, the reason I've got this name for it—in one level, in what they call "zapping" healing, you go above, you transmute energy up to the mental level. Now from that mental level it goes across and down to a physical level again, to heal somebody. That's the reason I don't advise healing. You go down and you take a corrupt body and rebuild it, to show off. Rather than go on and try to find the break in the stratosphere.

Because what happens in the healing that results from above mental, or supramental, transmutation is non-energy-losing. In that type of healing, there's no loss of energy. That's done by twisting the illusion.

We got to talking to Slim Cunningham about healing, and to Olga Worrels. I don't know how many of you are acquainted with Olga Worrels, but her husband Ambrose Worrels, was one of the most famous healers in the eastern part of the country. And of course, I had presumed these people were either faith healers or else they were zappers.

How we got to talking about it, I was looking at a button while I was talking to Slim—I didn't want to look him in the face, so I looked at a button on his shirt. And he said, "You're healing me, aren't you."

And I said, "No, I'm not. If I am, I don't know it." I don't intend to be a healer. But he had emphysema. And he said, as I sat there and talked to him, his lungs seemed to clear up, from me staring at his button. Which I think is pure coincidence, or maybe he wished it, I don't know.

We got around to the idea—I told him I didn't approve of the contact- or zap-type healing. I said that you could do it without that. You do it by creating a warp in the mental picture. Mary Baker Eddy had the same thing with fewer words—it was considered faith healing. But it isn't necessarily faith healing. There's a little twist in the mind that does it.

So, consequently, you're no longer doing anything with your physical vector. You made a kind of quantum leap, and you're now in a mental dimension—no longer a physical brain/mind dimension. No, you're above the body-mind.

~ Continued in the May TAT Forum.

© 1984 Richard Rose. All Rights Reserved.

Light or Darkness?

The light which puts out our eyes is darkness to us.
Only that day dawns to which we are awake.
There is more day to dawn. The sun is but a morning star.

~ Henry David Thoreau

Fact & Fantasy
by Bob Fergeson

Zen is "Walk, don't wobble." —Richard Rose

Many of us go through life enamored of ourselves to the point of not really knowing where we are headed or why. We refuse to question our decisions in any meaningful way, and only after a severe shock or trauma will we ever admit we may not have been what we thought. One of the dominant features of many seekers of truth is a feeling of superiority which tends to blind the student to his own true life pattern. In other words, we live in our heads, safely hidden from the facts of our real existence.

If we are lucky enough to be clobbered into wakefulness and the truth of our life through trauma or necessity (I have no interest in speaking to those who are convinced they are "ripe souls," needing only to wait in idleness for their coming release), we may find we have been blind to something Richard Rose called our "fact-status." For example, when I first entered university, I was so convinced of my own superiority that I never thought of cracking a book, never bothered to show up for class or take notice of the declining state of my health and mind. After flunking out my first semester, becoming hooked on drugs, and letting my teeth nearly rot, I was forced to re-evaluate my thinking. My fact-status could no longer be ignored, no matter how far I hid in inner fantasy.

wobble toys The above pattern of self-conflict, while a bit extreme, illustrates the gap between our false image of ourselves and our fact-status. We are continually knocked off balance by this conflict, and instead of facing the truth about ourselves and acting accordingly, many of us simply regroup, re-invent, and continue to live as if the story in our heads were true. The ego refuses to see anything wrong about itself, thus denying that which asserts otherwise, fact or not. We continue to be lulled asleep. Falling off the log into the stream of unconsciousness, we are shocked awake and climb back up, only to succumb again to the ego's song of distraction and desire, wobble off balance, and again take the plunge. This continued stumbling between ego-fantasy and the shock of the facts eats up our time and energy. We can keep up the game when we are young, for a while, but sooner or later we tire, become isolated, defensive, and begin to crystallize. Any hope of finding something beyond the ego fades as the ego becomes all.

The above may sound hopeless. But balance can be obtained if we persevere, learning from our mistakes and those who have gone before us. Rose called the process of using what uses us "milk from thorns." By recognizing the ability of our own mind to delude itself, we can hopefully set up a system of checks and balances to insure that our idea of ourselves is, at least, somewhat related to the facts. This fact-checking can be brought about in many ways: through honest friends and family, co-workers and colleagues. Another one is intuition, learning to listen to the small voice within. Most importantly, we can become more aware by learning to be honest in truly observing ourselves. This use of self-observation, which might be called the opposite of rationalization, is spoken of by every serious system of finding spiritual truth.

Now, there are some of us who say, "Why bother with observing myself, when the great teachers recommend inquiring directly within for the absolute?" To find the truth, or absolute, one needs to be a true vector of inquiry. The above examples of how we are not this true vector, or stable inquirer, show the myriad paths of fantasy in which we become entangled. Let us not presuppose ourselves to be something we are manifestly not. A quick check of our fact-status will show us how we are ready, willing and able to be distracted from inner inquiry at the drop of a hat or wink of an eye. Learning to walk a straight line, upright and somewhat mentally sober, would be a good first step. Developing one-pointedness of mind first, we then turn this beam upon ourselves, now knowing the difference between fact and self-created fiction. We are beginning to have a sense of balance through wielding the sword of discernment.

By developing and using this power of discrimination on our own minds, we come to see how and where the ability to fool ourselves originates. We come to know our minds, and thus become objective or anterior to them. Through this process of separation from our former "self," and through a growing acceptance of our fact-status (things as they are), we find we have been practicing what may be called a practical form of self-inquiry combined with surrender, and have made real progress. When we look back on the delusions we so readily accepted and projected, we have to laugh at ourselves and our previous stumblings about. The value of this progress is not in that we have found reality but in that we have become better able to discern the real from the unreal, and thus have increased our odds of knowing reality if we ever do happen to bump into it. In the words of Richard Rose, "We must desire the Truth, and have a capacity for it else we could not receive it even if it came to us by accident." By learning to walk, not wobble, we keep from continually falling off the log of discernment before we get to the other shore. We become painfully aware of the games we insist on playing, and the fears we harbor, and realize we might not desire the truth about ourselves as much as we thought. We begin to see our true inner motivations, hereto unconscious, and thus have the beginning possibility of real self-inquiry through a stable mind, and real surrender through acceptance of truth.

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

Direct Mind Power
by Gary Harmon

There is a communication that is inherent to all living things that we sense and at times is more obvious than others. For example, the way animals communicate with each other, such as a flock of birds flying in precise formation or ants that demonstrate a society of cooperative social synchronization. With so small a head that there seems to be no room for a brain, yet an ant colony exhibits an obvious intelligence at work. How can this be if these tiny creatures are individually working and living from their minuscule cranium? There must be some kind of unseen mind or hidden power at work.

Capetown mural of human line Even humans sometimes know what someone is going to say or do before it happens. The hunches we receive about various things and events that come into our mind "out of nowhere," if paid attention too, are often proven to be accurate. Logic may attempt to convince us that we are being foolish if we notice that voice from out of the blue. It could be we are connected to all things of the world in a way that is quite simple and interlineally basic. This idea is far beyond what the intellect is willing to allow, for its authority and the belief of free will would be threatened. The obvious connections that nature demonstrates to us may be a clue to our relation with the universe. After all, without our feet firmly planted on the ground of what we call Earth, where would we stand? We had better call our planet a thing that is not apart from us, or we will find ourselves like a pulled-up weed with no place for its roots to gather nourishment and no anchor to hold on to.

So the question arises where is this mind that connects and provides thinking for all these plants, animals, planets and humans. Is it good enough to notice the synchronicity of all creation and say it is mind stuff? Maybe our logical, analytical way of understanding is flawed.

For experimentation sake, let's try assuming that this whole universe is somehow interconnected and try to make something happen by utilization of this invisible connection. There are many things we could try, but let's try an easy one concerning an "appeared" other member of the human club. While out in public, find a person that you don't know who seems interesting to you. Look at them, not directly or intensely, but notice what they look like and the mannerisms that they exhibit. Position yourself so you can look up and see how they react to what your attempt at communicating with them will produce. Now look away from them and attempt to become in tune with that person. Hold your thinking in a synchronous fashion and put yourself in their head. Instead of a separate you and a them, hold in mind a unity of your mind and their mind, sort of like a mind-meld that Spock might do. Don't try to make the connection, just allow the connection without caring if it happens or not. Hold an intention of good will and caring in mind for that person. Now look over at the person again and see if they are looking your way. Odds are—they noticed your presence. So smile and be on your way.

To surrender to the actuality of oneness that is all living things is the most caring thing that our individualness can permit. To deny our roots to the earth, our solar system and the universe that is the aquarium which is our space to live would be foolhardy. Allowing that unity to be as it is is a great stride toward admitting our true nature. A side effect of the admittance is a power that is not of the individual but a communication with the whole of creation. This perceptive insight is available and forever present in the great reservoir that we originate from. By shunning individual desires we gain a common interest in making things better, not just for us, but for all others as well.

~ See Gary's Spiritual Books Worth Reading web site.

A Terrible Beauty:
Reflections on Love and the Near-Death Experience
by John Wren-Lewis

All changed, changed utterly;
A terrible beauty is born.
~ W.B. Yeats, Easter 1916

The most important experience of my life was in 1983 when I came "to the brink" in a near-death experience (NDE). I found a meaning I'd never dreamed of in Shakespeare's statement that love "looks on tempests and is never shaken." I discovered, in the moment of time-stop, that human consciousness is grounded in the same fundamental energy that moves the sun and other stars and tempests too—an energy for which "love" is the only word we have, though its common sentimental associations are hopelessly misleading.

As a result I have been following the portrayal of near-death experiences in the popular media as well as in professional research. I found that movies on the subject of near-death experiences, which have tried to reenact scenes of people floating up out of their bodies and moving down tunnels into heavenly light, typically fall far short of capturing the life-changing feeling. Moreover, it's not just lack of feeling in those feeble reenactment movies that sells the reality of NDEs short. The feeling they do convey actually does violence to what I believe to be the most significant feature of the experience: They suggest going away from this world and this life to find the heavenly light and love in some other realm, whereas the life changes that have impressed even hard-nosed skeptics into taking NDEs seriously happen because experiencers find their eyes have been opened to light and love right here in the world to which they return on resuscitation. One exception is Peter Weir's 1993 film Fearless, that starts from this fact, which then is the main focus of the story.

Jeff Bridges, in Fearless Fearless is the first film I've seen that has managed to convey the actual feeling of a dimension beyond the life of space and time. There is a vivid reenactment of a jetliner crash from passengers' eye view. Yet far from aggravating the fear of flying, the final effect is the absolute reverse. Director Weir has pulled off the incredible achievement of enabling viewers actually to feel for themselves how at such moments human consciousness can transcend fear, and indeed mortality itself, by moving out of time. (So effective is it, I even wonder if the film wouldn't be positively reassuring as in-flight entertainment on a bumpy run.)

The film reveals facts about near-death experiences that are very little known outside the (still fairly small) circle of people around the world doing professional research in the field. For starters, it's still not at all widely realized that all the classic experiences that make the headlines when people are resuscitated from the brink of clinical death—disappearance of fear and pain, feelings of blissful peace, slowing down or total stoppage of time, even the famous tunnel and encounter with celestial beings and heavenly light—can also occur to people who, like the film's hero Max (superbly acted by Jeff Bridges), narrowly avoid death without being sick or damaged in any way.

In fact, one of the very serious studies in this whole area was made back in the 1890s by a Swiss Alpine climber named Albert Heim, who fell off a cliff to what seemed certain death, only to land on soft snow with very minor injuries. As he went down, time seemed to become infinitely extended, fear vanished, and he experienced wonderful colors and music, plus a panoramic review of his life right from childhood, with a sense that even his nastiest acts were now somehow accepted without being in any way whitewashed. He was moved to write a scientific paper about it when he found many other mountaineers had similar experiences, but this received little if any attention outside Switzerland, and wasn't translated into English until Russell Noyes, professor at the University of Iowa, did so in the 1970s, after Raymond Moody had begun to draw attention to NDEs experienced in clinical situations.

Even then very little attention was paid to this kind of near-death experience, without the actual dying, because journalists—and for that matter most professional researchers—were concerned mainly with finding possible evidence of a soul that could survive the body's death, which meant concentrating attention on people who might actually have been dead for a short time, as in the movie Flatliners.

Australian sociologist Alan Kellahear played a major role in drawing attention to the similarity between clinical NDEs and the experiences of people in crisis situations like shipwrecks and air disasters. In Fearless, this is one of the major plot lines. The movie's climax is the revelation that Max's strange post-crash behavior—an apparently total loss of fear, disappearance of a long-standing allergy, an aversion to any form of lying even for "good causes," estrangement from his wife and son while feeling great love for another crash survivor who's deranged at the loss of her baby—is due to his having experienced in the crash the same "moment of death" that recurs weeks later when he comes close to clinical death through the return of his allergy.

The moral ambiguity of Max's post-crash behavior, which is the film's main plot line, brings out another feature of NDEs that doesn't get much discussed. Here again, researchers in the 1970s and early 1980s had an agenda that led them to bypass important facts. They were anxious to establish that NDEs weren't just hallucinations produced by disturbed brains, so they were at pains to demonstrate, by means of interviews and psychological tests, that experiencers showed no signs of mental sickness, but were actually living healthier, more creative lives than before. The resulting impression was one of all sweetness and light, until in 1988 Idaho housewife-researcher Phyllis Atwater blew the whistle in her book Coming Back to Life, by showing that healthier and more creative living often involved upsetting conventional domestic and social applecarts.

Yes, experiencers do indeed come back with new spiritual drive and urge toward a better world, but that often means preferring poverty to dull jobs that would keep families in the style to which they're accustomed, helping strangers rather than going to neighborhood cocktail parties, and looking at scenery for hours instead of taking Junior to Little League.

Fearless explores this issue with enormous sensitivity, showing how Max's changed behavior—sometimes generous beyond all expectation, but sometimes apparently foolhardy or even cruel—springs from his inability to countenance the compromises with fearful self-protection that are involved in even the "happiest" marriages and the most "regular guy" lifestyles.

In that timeless moment of the crash, he has experienced the wonder of infinite aliveness that gets continually blocked out in so-called normal life by fearful evasion of any facts we've been taught to find unpleasant. As a consequence, he rescues several other passengers from the wreck in a way that they and observers consider heroic, though to him it really is, as he insists, nothing special. We see also how his rescue of other passengers was indeed no heroic defiance of fear, but something he could do quite naturally because time has slowed down for him, enabling him to see, for example, how to avoid falling debris. For me, this echoed the story of a friend of mine who performed a similar rescue of a mate from a blazing tank in World War II, and is equally anxious to repudiate any idea that he was heroic. Such experiences are by no means uncommon, even outside NDE literature.

However, there's an added twist in Weir's presentation of the rescue scene which I wonder if I am perhaps the only viewer to appreciate. As the plane breaks up all around, Max picks up a baby and then calls out to the passengers who are still relatively unhurt, "Follow me to the light!" This apparently straightforward directive about how they can get safely out of the wreckage takes on highly symbolic significance when, in the final climactic flashback to the scene, the long body of the plane through which Max leads them becomes identified with the tunnel of an actual NDE encounter. Since Max clearly wasn't asking the others to follow him to the light of heaven, but taking them back to life on Earth, Weir seems to be anticipating my own hypothesis (which I've never seen advanced by anyone else, and haven't yet published outside Australia) that the tunnel-to-the-light phenomenon in NDEs is a discovery of "heavenliness" as the true nature of this world when it's perceived without the veil of fear. And since it's timeless heavenliness, the question of whether it continues after physical death is entirely secondary.

Weir keeps giving hints of Max's "heavenly" experience of the world all through the film, for example in the way he finds the buildings of the San Francisco Bay Area fascinating when others don't even notice them, and is truly at a loss to understand how his fellow survivor who is with him fails to see what he sees. Another example is his description of being free from society's entanglements because death brings freedom and he feels he's already dead. Some notable statements to this effect have been made by real-life near-death experiencers. One that comes most immediately to mind is the great pioneer of humanistic and transpersonal psychology Abraham Maslow, who described the blissful calm he experienced in the two years he lived on after his near-fatal heart attack in 1968 as "my posthumous life."

transparent man from HP blade server ad But here again Weir introduces a twist that resonates with my own experience in a way I've not seen mentioned anywhere else in NDE literature. Max tells the girl survivor as they walk down the city streets that they're invisible to the crowds "because we're ghosts." I dreamed exactly that not long after my own NDE. It was such a remarkable dream that I published a paper about it in an American psychological journal, but I can't imagine it was read by anyone involved in making Fearless.

The most interesting thing of all about the film as a whole for me, however, is the way it explores what I have come to see as the $64,000 question: Why is it that something like a close brush with death is normally needed for the heavenliness of the world to be experienced? (And even that works in only a minority of cases!) The film's answer, if I understand it right, seems to be that the natural biological fear-response seems to have gotten out of hand in the human species, to the point where it governs the whole organization of social life down to the minutest detail, blocking out aliveness in the process. For the fortunate minority, coming close to death unravels the knot, but then we have the problem of finding out how to organize practical affairs with fear as life's servant rather than its master, something about which even the world's greatest mystics and religious teachers have left us only very partial blueprints.

NDEs are often spoken of as rebirths; mine felt more like a resurrection, because I was reconstructed with all my past experience, but with the fear-response now operating "to one side," as it were, so that for most of the time I can heed it rationally but not be run by it.

Max's inability to cope with society's fear-organized conventions does indeed cause fear to overwhelm him, making his allergy return and really take him to the dying point. He is saved and comes back out of that tunnel saying, "I'm alive!"

One of Britain's pioneers in scientific futures studies, John Wren-Lewis became well known for writings on science and society, including science and religion, and held several visiting professorships on both sides of the Atlantic. John and his wife, dream-researcher Ann Faraday, now live in Australia. They hope that the new book, "The 9:15 to Nirvana," will be published by the end of the year.

The article "A Terrible Beauty" first appeared in IONS Review No. 54, December 2000-February 2001, pp. 16-19 (now published in the name: Shift—At the Frontiers of Consciousness), and is reprinted by permission of the author and the Institute of Noetic Sciences, www.noetic.org. © 2001 IONS. All rights reserved.

Poems by Shawn Nevins

It's quiet
for the first time in days.
A stream opens inside my chest
and carries itself away,
leaving sand—
eternity between every pore.


Leaves rattle:
memories calling to one another.
Water flows under my tongue,
past pretences forgiven by this moment,
a parting of ways—
walking without a self.


The light within
reflects upon this mind pool
leading to believing
these life ripples, this motion, this sound is life.

But water tumbles within silence
that shatters belief,
leaving you at the edge of this pool
blinded by the Self.


Voices echo down
cold corridors of stone.
Round a corner,
I am seeking one I hear
when speaking alone.
It is late
and quiet.
I speak, but am no longer


Walk into this sunlit field
With Me.
Do you hear that gentle rustling?
Whispers of wind;
time blowing by
without you.


You follow me
wherever I go.
Silently spreading over my thoughts.
Seeping between the paralysis of paradox:
the urge to live,
but be without
this chain of self.


The grasses speak to me of seasons—
memories of light and life.
What rustling sounds make I
as the wind streams through me
high on this hill
where earth touches sky,
"Who am I?"
"Who am I?"

Commentary on Going Within
by Bob Cergol

letter O with swan One thing I'd like to clarify is that the "Meditation type 1" description [see "Going Within" in the February 2004 TAT Forum] sounds as though I'm completely dismissing, even recommending against, the practice of looking at what troubles oneself. This is not what I think. Relative to true "going within" it is superficial—scratching the surface—but it is still necessary in the beginning and, I suspect, is the beginning point for everyone. It's what starts the reversal process in the focus of one's attention. Moving the attention in a direction away from the most outward experience and instead toward the source of that experience. The degree to which people develop strategies to counter this reversal, i.e. "looking away," might be a fundamental, if not ultimate, distinction among them, though I don't know how to account for this serendipity. I wonder what percentage of people are able keep up this avoidance strategy right into their own death experience. For some people it takes a lifetime to "retraverse this projected ray." We've read of others, Ramana Maharshi for one, who did so in a very short time. One thing I've come to appreciate is how the turbulence of experience blankets Awareness like a dense fog.

Rose once responded, "Well it dims and brightens, that's about the best way I can tell you," to a question about his realization: "Do you experience this awareness of yourself now, or is it something that the person loses when he comes back?" (Direct-Mind Experience, p. 104). But the Absolute cannot exist in degrees, manifest in degrees or be experienced in degrees. (Remember Pulyan's comment [in correspondence with Richard Rose] that "while I can imagine having more of what I've got, there are no degrees!" What then was he referring to that he could have more of?)

The realization of one's being doesn't brighten and dim—rather, the turbulence of mind slows or hastens like a fog obscuring the view of the world. The mind must be emptied. Experience fills the mind. The self that people take themselves to be arises in the mind—and exists only on the level of experience. The mind must be emptied, but no amount of effort will completely empty it because the final content is the experience of individuality—of identity—and that identity did not generate itself, but it fights mightily to affirm itself, and the fight generates more experience. Beyond this mind-content is true Being.

morning fog lifting on the Hudson River © www.twofrog.com Morning fog lifting
on the Hudson River
© www.twofrog.com

It took 25 years (more or less) for my mind to become emptied. Now it takes anywhere from zero to five minutes for me to shake off the fog that the experience of my mundane life generates as I allow myself to live it. But I am not doing anything. I am not re-establishing contact. I am not causing Awareness to brighten for "me." Everyone has exactly the same "brightness" of Awareness. The difference lies in the density of the fog enshrouding it. As the fog lifts, you go with it. What's left is what's real. There is an experience that accompanies this, an echo of the real in the field of mind, and it is that which dims and brightens for me. After you've looked at the content of your mind for so long that you just cannot look at it any more, that content ceases to be the object of your attention. But the looking doesn't stop at that point! Its the same with dreams. Upon waking you may stare at the dream you just had—and stare until, out of exasperation at unraveling and discerning the meaning of the dream's content, you just give up, or just grow weary. At that point the staring coasts and something remains as its object. This something that remains is very important and real—and yet it is not "there." Then you wake up and start your day and perhaps pause to meditate and stare some more.

This is the paradox of effort and effortlessness. Realization only occurs when one stops trying. But in order to see, one must first look! Before you can reach this state of effortless looking, you must make great efforts to look! Otherwise, the endless swirl of experience will fill your mind and sweep you away.

When all of the content of consciousness melts away, I am what remains.

Photo of morning fog lifting on the Hudson River © www.twofrog.com, used with the permission of Sonja Keohane.


Now this may be rather trivial, but it is very illustrative for skeptics of how programmed they are—body and mind. After trying this exercise, imagine how much more easily thoughts move in tandem with the body.

While sitting at your desk, lift your right foot off the floor and make clockwise circles. Now, while doing this, draw the number "6" in the air with your right hand. Your foot will change direction, and there's nothing you can do about it.

Kind of cool. If I go really slow, I can make both motions. Also, if I quickly sign the number six. In the first method, I think the brain is rapidly shifting from one task to the next. In the later, I may be relying on something like "muscle memory" to make the number. Also neat to try using the left hand and foot. Ahhh, also try it using opposite hands and feet—can definitely tell there is separation between the halves of the brain. Even most illustrative of my programming is the fact that I'm sitting here doing what you suggested. :-)   ~ Shawn

Reader Commentary:

I thought Shawn's last forum contribution was specially made for me. ~ Dave S. (see Is It Too Late? in the March 2003 TAT Forum.)

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