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TAT Forum
June 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 7) by Richard Rose | Poems by Shawn Nevins | Scale by Shawn Nevins | Preface to Experience & Philosophy by Franklin Merrell-Wolff | Spiritual Ecology by Bob Fergeson | Trace Your Roots by Bob Cergol | An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge by Ambrose Bierce | Humor | Reader Commentary

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Peace of Mind Despite Success
by Richard Rose

~ From a 1984 talk in Akron, Ohio—Conclusion
(continued from the May 2004 TAT Forum)

The blueprint is harmonious—if you don't mind the fact of the predators and the victims, the pageantry of eat and be eaten, in the beautiful world. Everything's being eaten and destroyed and killed and slaughtered, etc. Still, it's a very beautiful pattern. The grass is green in the spring because a lot of things die.

But—I think the pain [Rose is referring to the pain in his head that preceded his self-realization, as described in the previous installment - Ed.] basically comes from physical reaction to the mind being taken out or disconnected from the body, that's all.

St. John of the Cross Of course, when I tried to find somebody who knew something about it, I looked for years. I found very little mention of it except in St. John of the Cross. I don't know how far John of the Cross went—he had an illumination when he was in prison. But a lot of people have had the different illuminations. Under stress—times of death, sometimes before a firing squad—it will happen. In times of tragedy, thinking is forced; you have to think about it, and the mind is opened up.

But there was physical pain. I got out of the body far enough—the circulation in the head might have been down, I don't know. And people have asked me this, but I never thought to time it. I don't know how long I was out. I was alone at the time, and....

Questioner: Was there pain when you came back into your body?

Rose: The pain was when I was leaving. The pain got so intense that I left my body.

Q: I have astral-projected and never experienced any pain.

R: See, this is something a little different I think from astral projection. Because I have projected astrally and didn't have too much trouble. But this seemed to be something tremendously different. Most astral projection, if you notice, is limited to the geography here.

Q: About losing your ego—the ego that you're talking about is your will to survive, or your life. You left your life—something happened, and you died. That's the difference between astral projection and this.

R: The thing that I faced, number one, was—I had a lot of little, real lousy, egos that I was trying to put across at the time. But also in the process, when I was sitting there and I knew that death was approaching, I had to face the fact, very quickly, that all of a sudden I was going to be possibly zero.

In a natural death, when a person dies slowly, they go through that change. And I went through it rapidly. I accepted death, knowing that very possibly it could be zero. You have no choice. Any bit of protoplasm—animals do the same thing when they realize that they're going to be killed. Nature has the sedative.

Q: This was a mental thing that happened to you, and you mentally accepted the fact that you were dying. It felt reasonable to you because this is what life is about.

R: Yes. The total absurdity of one and the inescapability of the other. Everything just like dominoes—the whole thing went down very rapidly.

Q: You just can't do that on the spur of the moment; certain things have to fall into place.

R: I couldn't bring it about, no. I don't particularly think that I'd care to.

I know there's a difference between whether I astrally stepped out of my body and went to see somebody I knew. (That would be a nice little trip, but I would say also that a bus ticket is cheaper.) It's not as traumatic. To go through this—you can't plan it—there's no way you can plan it—because you'd have to put yourself in a state of mind in which you would be beyond relativity, beyond concern.

One time it happened after that, and it just came upon me like a flash. It didn't last too long because it wasn't traumatic. It was traumatic in that I saw very clearly all the people that I really cared for on this earth as not making it. I knew that certain ones weren't going to make it, they were going to be stuck in the illusion. My own family. And there was a lot of sadness in that, because naturally you'd like to take your family.

Q: What do you mean, not making it? Here in this life?

R: I find that there are different levels of people. And the best explanation I ever got for them was in Gurdjieff's system. He was what I consider one of the greatest psychologists that ever came out of the Western world. He died in 1949. He had a tremendous psychology. He found his through a prefect psychology as well.

He classified people as being instinctive, emotional, intellectual, or philosophic. He had seven classes, but he stopped describing them in detail at the philosophic. Man number seven he said was the perfect man—meaning that man was either in tune with the Absolute or his highest state of development.

We go through the different realizations. We start off—most of the people around, in the pyramid of life—all life is pyramidal in form. The common element is the greatest—the instinctive people are the greatest in number. There are very few of the philosophic people.

So what happens is—there are corresponding spiritual states. You hear of all these different things that happen to people after death. And they happen in tune with the particular type of person having them. An instinctive person seemingly never has a eureka experience, a satori, or samadhi.

First of all, you can't talk to them. They don't want to hear anything—except "Where can I get another drink?" or "Are there any girls down that way?" Sex, pleasure, accomplishment, raising hell, adventure—that sort of thing.

Now I had one of those fellows talk to me on the street. And I always figured this, because they don't care to talk about anything about life after death. It seems like they're afraid of it. As well as having you stamped as being a fanatic or a nut, rather than listen to you. So you don't talk to them; you don't try.

I remember this one fellow, somehow he had heard—maybe somebody told him I'd written a book or something—he walked up to me in this little town where I was born. And he said, "Hey, Dick, I got a feeling you know something about this stuff: What happens to a person after they die?"

And I said to him, "You just had a heart attack about six months ago, I heard. You're the fellow who should know." And I said, "What happened to you?"

He said, "Nothing. Nothing." He said, "When I came back, the only memory I had was of being obliviated. I was out."

Now what transformation occurs to an instinctive person during this evolutionary thing to where they get a little curiosity-hunger? There's a little saying that you've wandered away like a child from home, the house of the Father. And he can't bring you back alone, you've gotten out too far. There has to be some generation of desire, hunger, nostalgia for the old homeplace. So you start back—and if you start, you get some more momentum.

The next step above the instinctive person is the emotional person, which I call the emotional/devotional level. The implementation is forgetting the self, forgetting their selfish pleasures, thinking of somebody else, falling in love, thinking of your wife and children, or your husband and children, more than yourself.

This is a step upward from the instinctive person—the only step that you can go through. Or, falling in love with Jesus. Or falling in love with an ideal. But, regardless, getting some focus beyond yourself, quit thinking about yourself and pleasure. I've heard men say that when they could no longer enjoy sex they wanted to be dead. And every time I'd hear it, I'd say, "When I have to depend on that—I want to be dead." I don't consider this animal life anything to be snorting about for the next few decades.

This is the same with both male and female, this dedication to something beyond that physical vanity and love of pleasure. When those people approach death, invariably those people devoted to their parents and children—all you have heard some accounts—what is it when they die? Who appears? Mother appears; grandfather appears—they reach over, pull them across a little gap. Because this was the bond of love.

But—why? Where are those people? They're in a relative dimension. In other words, they are separate from those people. These people, finally, after so long—for instance, I've known people who for twenty years were in a Jesus movement and then suddenly spring loose from it. "I've got to go back to the drawing board again—I think maybe I've missed something." Their intuition comes to life again: "Better start looking."

So they get into astrology, numerology, the kabbalah—and apply the intellect. That's the intellectual person. So after so much of that, they start to see patterns—blueprints, possibilities, an order in the universe. In which they are a happy part. They transcend the emotional stage, and they find that they're able to approach this, understand it, work with it on the logical, intellectual level.

The kabbalah is a very logical thing, and through studying the kabbalah, supposedly people find great wisdom. Great wisdom, not great being. That’s the eureka experience. The word satori is synonymous with the eureka experience. That’s the Japanese Zen word for their achievement. So, after a while, people get tired of that. The people who die in that state of mind are a category of death experiences. All these things are written up by Moody, Kubler-Ross, and a lot more, and fall into these categories.

Iris with dying and rising Osiris Iris with dying and rising Osiris

There are people who are visited by their relatives, people who see geometric figures or vistas. The next one is people who see like a psychedelic world-creation—that's Bucke's experience [Richard Bucke, author of Cosmic Consciousness]. He said the city of Montreal was lit up with a rose color—no one saw it but him. But the whole sky was transformed. And that was before the days of LSD.

So this is the result of the outgoing or liberation from this logic. Because logic is vanity. There is no truth in logic. It only applies to the orderly way electrons pile on electrons. It's a small-r reality. A small-t truth. Science. Which in it’s totality is illusion. So after the person realizes the possibility of illusion, he goes out again as I did. Looking you-don’t-know-where now. You realize you've been dealing with vanity. You've fattened up your head. You're seeking to solve this with your logical mind, and you find out you can't. So you don't know where to look. And that's the reason the last four or five years I was just looking any place I could. I looked under any and every rock. Any place. Listen to people, go out and travel, see phenomena, see if you could tie something together with these different phenomena you run into—healing, miracles, and so on.

But by that persistence, even though you have no objective—it's better that you don't have an objective—then you reach the philosophic realization. This is samadhi.

Now those people don't see relatives. In fact, in the back of The Albigen Papers this is written up—what I wrote when I came back from it, in which I lamented when I came down that I had lost the friends of my youth. Everything, relatives and everybody—there was nothing, none of them were there. I felt that the world had melted, and that was the cause of a lot of the anguish as I went into it. I was describing the feelings as I approached it. Everything went.

Now the world wasn't a beautiful place. The world was as it is. All beauty is a projection. It's first of all the degree of refraction by which light bounces off protoplasm. But it's also basically a projection. We have certain impulses, and then we see what we want to see. Like the man on the desert island—when he sees a cow, it becomes a beautiful woman. That's the downfall of a lot of people.

Q: When someone dies, like the emotional man, does he stay there?

R: I really don't know how long the hangup occurs. I don't know whether they come back—some teachers say they come back, they have to come back here before they make the next jump. Someone asked Buddha that, in the Buddhist anecdotes, where people went when they died. And he said that people of a certain religion—when followers of Confucius die, they'll go to Confucius, and the Buddhists will go to the family of the Buddha. And whatever they're attracted to, dedicated to, whatever they believed in, is what they'll find.

And this has led some people to come to the conclusion that you went toward your desire, to a point where there were different religions. One of them was even called the desire region. There's a class of spiritualists—a fellow by the name of Curtiss wrote this up in a book, but I notice that some Theosophical writings hit the same chord—that a person, if they believe something—once this illusion melts—the only thing that happens is the collective creation of a homing place for them to converge on.

For instance, I was always amazed—if you look at these case histories of people who cross over—there was one I quote from in 1974—a fellow died in a car. They pronounced him dead. He was out for about two hours, and they revived him. He had been an agnostic before; he had no belief. He didn't see anybody, but he said he found himself in a place. And he was convinced of it's reality. He said there were no people there, but there was a place, he had landed in a place. [See "I Died at 10:52 AM," by Victor Solow, in the December 2003 TAT Forum.]

So I think sometimes that we have to free ourself—in order to actually be a more vital part of the human family, we have to free ourselves from this clinging. We have to be it without clinging. I don't think we lose anybody in death, on any plane. But I think there's an unnecessary huddling together probably for another period of time, that's all.

But these experiences correspond with the types of people. Maybe it's all they can conceive. Take all of the people sitting here, and supposing you were about to die, and you had an absolute experience. How could you even survive in it? This is the difficulty. Without the necessary change of being, there is no comprehension. In other words, you have to become absolute to actually—it's like going to China without knowing any Chinese: you're lost.

And what we're doing, all of you are sitting there now probably asking questions, trying to relate to it. You can't relate to it. You can't relate with the mundane mind to it. You can say, "Well, these are case histories of things that happened." But to transcend this, to get beyond this....

Even the dead person—suppose a dead person wants to communicate with you. What they have to do is build a picture in your relative mind—and I don't know how much trouble they would have to go through to do this—they would have to build a picture in your mind of relative scenery, with them in the relative scenery. And then you'll say, "Grandpa's alive. I had a dream about him that was very real." But he had to create something that would be familiar to your relatively confused mind.

So with that type of confusion we are rooted in the necessity for the mundane dictionary definitions. Everything has to rest on terra firma. And that limits the understanding.

And if you were projected into it, I presume you would be totally lost. That's my presumption. If you weren't prepared for it, you'd be totally lost. So the whole thing is—if we all go to the same place just by jumping off the cliff—let's all get to the cliff real quick and get it over with. Because it seems to be a much better place to be.

But I think there's an advantage in life. I think there's an advantage. If life brings us an experience in which we're able to talk the language when we cross over—that language over there, not this; this doesn’t matter—then life becomes worthwhile.

I think the majority of you—what I pick up from you—the majority of you have felt that this life is not worth that much, as we previously set the values. The previously set values were not worth that much. There is something worth a tremendous lot more.

Life could be put to a tremendously better use than going down to the bowling alley every weekend, or going dancing, surfing, skiing, whatever. Even cocaine: Kennedy lived high, but I don't think he got the definition. [David Kennedy, son of Robert Kennedy, died of a cocaine overdose in 1984.]

(Discussion of meetings, etc., followed.)

© 1984 Richard Rose. All Rights Reserved.

Poems by Shawn Nevins

Rising water, falling leaves —
such signs of leaving are beautiful;
as welcome as becoming.

Rising and falling,
for us to leave.

Love is: walking out a door
into the unknown.


I never remember Reality.
It rises within me
— like flowers unfolding in a moment;
ages condensed into a day —
potential springing into being.


I won't be long.
Just let me walk once more
down the sun-lit hill,
feeling like every quiet moment
is my friend
and the world is nothing
but moment after moment.
A last walk with dreams;
with love.
Today lasts forever,
and forever
is speechless before its fate.


I've made a mess of the world.
What was outside is inside
and my inside feels out there.
In such a mess,
everything is everywhere
free for the taking
if you can find it.


The cock crows
rise and shine
through the "me, my, I" fog of time.
Shortening days,
clearing haze,
till the evening
brings an end to believing
and there is no reflection,
no recollection,
in the still waters of heaven.


If I could speak
with the weight of all time,
with the voice of all life,
I would make no sound,
but you would hear.


Interspersed among the moments of your life
are pauses:
sun glinting off of water,
a look of loss,
a bare branch against the sky,
a cool evening,
a breeze in the leaves.
I want to stop your mind
with the feeling of love that is leaving,
with a deep look inside,
with an unblinking opening
to the empty light within you,
with these lonely words,
with pauses.

by Shawn Nevins

Your belief in a unique destiny for your self—that you are a lover, warrior, hero, or devil; wise man or sly man; manipulator and ruler; guide, martyr, or watcher of fools—betrays your hubris. To loosen the bonds of belief, look:

clock showing events since birth of planet Earth "According to the latest scientific estimates, the Earth formed about 4.5 billion years ago, and the first living things appeared about 3.9 billion years ago. Imagine the complete panorama of the earth's history—about 4.5 billion years—set equal to a 24-hour day. If geological time were displayed on a clock that began ticking the instant our planet was born, the first gene probably emerged in the predawn hours, before 5:00 am. Later that morning the first sun-fed photosynthetic cells appeared, followed that afternoon by cells that carry their genes inside a membrane-bound nucleus, and later that evening by the first of many multicellular organisms. The first modern human beings, members of Homo sapiens, would not arrive on the evolutionary scene until about the last 30 seconds of this long day, and all of recorded history took place during the last tenth of the last second before the stroke of midnight."1

What fraction of the last tenth of the last second before midnight belongs to you? What will you do with your span of time? What can you do that has significance in the face of billions of years?

What about you does not change? Is there anything eternal?

Especially considering that our sun will burn out in 5.5 billion years.

The edge of the visible universe is some 15 billion light years distant (one light year equals five trillion 880 billion miles).

Within that universe are 2000 billion billion stars (equate that with every grain of sand on 47,000 miles of beaches.)

And 10 million billion planets.

Then there is the planet Earth.
And you standing upon that planet,
taking in, or being taken in by the vastness,
looking at the night sky;
looking into the past.

The light you see tonight from the star Alkaid (the star on the end of the handle of the Big Dipper) began its journey before you were born—101 years ago. You will be dead before an observer on a planet near Alkaid ever sees the light of this Earth night.

What will he know of you? What will you know of what you were? What will you know once the mind and body are gone, preceded by countless other minds and bodies?

The total number of people who ever lived is 33.8 billion. Of those, 6 billion are alive today.2

Where are the 27.8 billion who died? What did they want during their life? Who do you know that is now among the 27.8 billion who passed away? Are they immortal, or do they only remain in frozen memory which melts away like day?

Of the 6 billion alive today, how many hunger for meaning and purpose? What is your purpose among this 6 billion?

Current world death and birth rate:3
4.2 births per second, 1.8 deaths per second
361,381 births per day, 152,460 deaths per day

Every second, your replacements arrive, and every second is closer to being your last.

The average American life span is 76 years. That is 2,396,736,000 seconds.
If you want to see how many seconds you have left, and watch them go by, visit www.death-clock.org.

Don't deny time—look within for the first motion, and its source.

In their lifetime, an average person will spend:4
24 years sleeping
12 years talking
9 years watching TV
8 years at work
3.5 years eating
6 months on the toilet

Sad twilight cricket ...
Yes, I have wasted
Once again
Those daylight hours.
~ Rikei

Your one-year probability of various ways of dying:
lightning 1:14.2 million
drowning 1:600,000
falling 1:16,000
homicide 1:15,000
dying in auto accident 1:7000
stroke 1:1700
cancer 1:600
heart disease 1:400
death by any cause 1:117

Your long term odds:
death 1:1

However, your odds of discovering your true relationship to death are only limited by your desire. Your desire is only limited by your capacity for honesty. Your capacity for honesty changes through efforts to be honest.


1 jan.ucc.nau.edu/~lrm22/lessons/timeline/24_hours.html
2 www.nyu.edu/classes/adler/cosmos/How_Many.pdf now has restricted access; another reference to Prof. Hoffert's estimate of the total number of people who have lived on Earth is http://answers.google.com/answers/threadview?id=258651
3 www.census.gov
4 Sunday Telegraph, 5/17/98

Preface to Experience & Philosophy
by Franklin Merrell-Wolff

Sletter S with hand of God reaching down to seeker ome years now have passed since the precipitation of the inner events that led to the writing of this book. It may be said now that the value of this unfoldment remains as high as it ever was. It is true that I would place this treasure far above anything which may be obtained in the ordinary world field, in whatever domain, such as achievement in government, in business, in science, philosophy, mathematics or the arts. All these stand as values far inferior to these greater values which come from Fundamental Realization.

It remains true to my present state of consciousness that I would say that no accomplishment, in the world field, can be effective in solving the wrongness which is so evident in that field, without the insight and resources which are derived from Fundamental Realization. Therefore, it follows that all the efforts of man to solve his own problems, make life richer, and free it from the manifest evils which we see all about, is ineffective in the sense of achieving an effective resolution. As we look at the report recorded in the pages of history, we see the evils which were there in the past are still here today, and even find that those evils have become, if anything, greater than they were before.

As we advance in our scientific knowledge, we not only implement the powers of good that may be in the world but we also implement the powers of evil, with the result that the old difficulties, the old wrongnesses, return again, if anything, in amplified form. Therefore, if we are to resolve in any durable way these difficulties that call for the function of Redemption it is necessary that more and more of this human whole should attain the perspective and the resources that come from Enlightenment.

The traditional solution to the wrongness has been in the form of a retreat from the world field, but it is here suggested that this is not the only possible way. There may be such a thing as transforming the very field of outer action to such an extent that that field itself becomes redeemed and transformed with the result that noble purpose is not distorted into ignoble effects. The task before us is religious in the deepest meaning of that word. But as we look upon the record of traditional religion, it must be judged that traditional forms of religion have failed egregiously. This applies to all the religions that we know, less to some than to others, but so far the record of traditionalistic religion is one of essential failure. As it appears to me, that which is needed is a seeking for the ultimate Attainment on the part of as many people as possible—Attainment which is the very Essence of the religious search.

Furthermore, the seeking of this Attainment is not simply for the sake of one’s own individual Redemption but for the sake of the Redemption of humanity as a whole and, in addition, of all creatures whatsoever, however humble they may be. He who forgets his own Attainment and his own Redemption in seeking for the Attainment and Redemption of all creatures, is following the Path which is most certain to involve that very Attainment and Redemption for himself. The motive should always be the good of all creatures, not one’s own private good.

~ Reprinted, by permission, from the Preface to "Experience and Philosophy" by Franklin Merrell-Wolff. See the Franklin Merrell-Wolff Fellowship site for more information on Merrell-Wolff's teaching.

Spiritual Ecology
by Bob Fergeson

Jesus said, "For the person who has something will be given more, so that he will have more than enough; but the person who has nothing will have taken away from him even the little he has." —Matthew 13:12

If we wish to advance spiritually, then we must take drastic steps beyond that which nature mechanically provides. We are not created as self-developing organisms in matters of the spirit, only in nature. We were born into the world as creatures of nature, bred to reproduce and provide a better environment or nest for yet more bodies, ad infinitum. But as individuals, we are not even recognized in the realm of nature, much less helped to a higher state of being. To fool ourselves into believing we are forever young, here to have only fun, never grow old, or become unhealthy, rot and die stupid, is to throw away our chance to awake and recognize something of the spirit as well as that of the body. Even as mind, we are limited and can never know much that really matters in the short time and circumstance that nature allows. To become something more than a finite mind in a rotting pleasure house, we must take the highest energy this body/mind has and invest it in the search for understanding. Higher energies are needed to stimulate higher thinking and to generate even higher energies. To move beyond our limited natural state of mechanical pattern-reaction, to become an aware, alive intelligence, we will need to conserve and transmute what little energy we have.

The higher energies of understanding and spiritual discernment are found through conservation and transmutation. This is the true spiritual ecology. The saving of our energy to be used for the greatest possibility is to save our resources for our inner potential rather than spending it on base reactionary living, only. Our machine, this body and mind, must be free of toxic pollution, psychic parasites, irrational fears, and unquenchable desires that would use and abuse it for their own self-interests. If left to the devices of these forces of adversity, we can be likened to a man who is unable to stand, down on his hands and knees, lost in inner fantasy and dissipation, racked with fever and fear, hung over from his excesses. Only able to crawl at best, he cannot muster the energy needed to shake off the negative forces that keep him down. If he is to gain the strength and stability needed to stand and walk upright, in clear awareness of himself, he will need to gain sustenance from the best food available. This energy, saved and transmuted, can rid him of the fever that robs him of his potential spiritual strength and understanding. We only have so much energy on any given day. To spend it only on the realm of the body and the fantasies of mind is to rob ourselves of our spiritual potential. Having only so much energy for living, if it is spent entirely on partying and pleasure, on fear and false security, then none is left over to put aside for the future. The spiritual search will be under-funded while we dream away in pleasure, fantasy and suffering. As our time runs out, we spend even more energy blocking these facts from our own minds.

gallery.basketti.net: Moods

Our feeling causes much of our thinking. When we are tired, anxious or hung over, the world becomes a cramped place, full of danger and bereft of possibility. When we regain our energy, through time and the body's ability to regenerate, we become lighter in mood, possibility returns, and we go in search of the next opportunity to spend the little energy we have saved. Family moods and inherited states of mind can also eat up much of our energy, leaving us in dank corners of the mind with little purpose or ability to even think clearly. It is easier to see how this works in others. How many of you know someone who is chronically tired, in a bad mood, and perhaps ill health? The causes of this can sometimes be clearly seen from the outside. Perhaps the person never exercises the body even enough to metabolize their food. He doesn't get out from in front of the TV long enough to take in new impressions, refuses to go out with friends, overeats, drinks too much coffee and beer, smokes, and uses drugs. Their moods and states of mind are the product of being in energy-debt. This toxicity is born from a lack of energy caused by spending more than you take in. But he or she would rather think the reason for their negative state of mind is that the world just isn't giving them what they want. If only they had a break, could be given another chance, be a different person. The idea that changing their lifestyle could solve the problem, and give them a new potential, is never considered. A toxic body/mind cannot, on its own, initiate action leading to sanity and freedom.

Bondage or attachment means we are identified with the personality facet that is using up our energy, thinking it is "us." If we are hypnotically identified with our current state, then we can hardly be expected to think in a less attached manner. Being in a constant state of ego-defense or offense doesn't leave any time or energy for searching out a path to a higher state of being. Every time we agree to the bad moods and their corresponding personalities, and think that they are us, we burn higher energies that could be used in gaining greater understanding of ourselves. All impressions coming to us from outside are of themselves neutral and are taken according to the inner state of the receiver. If we are in a negative mood, all incoming perceptions tend to be taken negatively. If we are light in mood, they can be taken similarly. Only if we are awake and paying attention, with our mind quiet, can we actually have a chance at seeing what's what. This also saves energy and tends to give the higher energies we have a chance to transmute into even higher states. Animal reactions can only generate animal energy. Higher understanding comes from higher seeing. Our spiritual potential must be funded, to be actualized.

The path to Liberation is not found through getting more and more of what we think we want. It is found through clearer understanding of ourselves, brought about by a well functioning body/mind capable of storing and transmuting energy, along with a well-defined aim or direction. The energy provides the funding for our search. The aim, brought about by our suffering and longing for our true home, will provide the tension or pressure to transmute this energy into clearer understanding of ourselves. If enough energy and pressure are applied, we may find our very being is changed, and We are no longer in need, of anything. Take the little that you are given and invest it in your future becoming. Apply the force of steady direction, inwards towards your Source, and stand the pain of withdrawal from your former "selves." Turn the water of your energy into the Wine of your Becoming.

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

Trace Your Roots
by Bob Cergol

Q: Any recommendations for 5 guys trying to do something for 5 days?

fancy letter A Yes. Trace your roots. "How did you get to where you find yourself right now?" is the question. Recall with intensity—for observation—that state of mind that was present at some critical point in youth—perhaps adolescence or earlier—when your identity was in jeopardy—or at least undetermined, and that state was a source of anxiety—and see how that problem was resolved. (It never was.)

For those in their early 20's, the "resolution" of this conflict is fresh and not that well set and subject to shaking more easily, yet the fear is also greater, so they hang on more tightly. For older folks, that identity is crystalized and accepted through sheer habit, but an awareness of the much closer proximity to death can rekindle the youthful angst. This angst must be present for exposure to inspirational words to have a deep impact. If you can create an agenda that would develop this angst and alternate it with readings of profound and inspirational materials, followed by silence and rapport, then something could happen.

An Occurrence at Owl Creek
by Ambrose Bierce

Owl Creek illustration, www.abelgratis.co.uk A man stood upon a railroad bridge in northern Alabama, looking down into the swift water twenty feet below. The man's hands were behind his back, the wrists bound with a cord. A rope closely encircled his neck. It was attached to a stout cross-timber above his head and the slack fell to the level of his knees. Some loose boards laid upon the ties supporting the rails of the railway supplied a footing for him and his executioners—two private soldiers of the Federal army, directed by a sergeant who in civil life may have been a deputy sheriff. At a short remove upon the same temporary platform was an officer in the uniform of his rank, armed. He was a captain. A sentinel at each end of the bridge stood with his rifle in the position known as "support," that is to say, vertical in front of the left shoulder, the hammer resting on the forearm thrown straight across the chest—a formal and unnatural position, enforcing an erect carriage of the body. It did not appear to be the duty of these two men to know what was occurring at the center of the bridge; they merely blockaded the two ends of the foot planking that traversed it.

Beyond one of the sentinels nobody was in sight; the railroad ran straight away into a forest for a hundred yards, then, curving, was lost to view. Doubtless there was an outpost farther along. The other bank of the stream was open ground—a gentle slope topped with a stockade of vertical tree trunks, loopholed for rifles, with a single embrasure through which protruded the muzzle of a brass cannon commanding the bridge. Midway up the slope between the bridge and fort were the spectators—a single company of infantry in line, at "parade rest," the butts of their rifles on the ground, the barrels inclining slightly backward against the right shoulder, the hands crossed upon the stock. A lieutenant stood at the right of the line, the point of his sword upon the ground, his left hand resting upon his right. Excepting the group of four at the center of the bridge, not a man moved. The company faced the bridge, staring stonily, motionless. The sentinels, facing the banks of the stream, might have been statues to adorn the bridge. The captain stood with folded arms, silent, observing the work of his subordinates, but making no sign. Death is a dignitary who when he comes announced is to be received with formal manifestations of respect, even by those most familiar with him. In the code of military etiquette silence and fixity are forms of deference.

The man who was engaged in being hanged was apparently about thirty-five years of age. He was a civilian, if one might judge from his habit, which was that of a planter. His features were good—a straight nose, firm mouth, broad forehead, from which his long, dark hair was combed straight back, falling behind his ears to the collar of his well fitting frock coat. He wore a moustache and pointed beard, but no whiskers; his eyes were large and dark gray, and had a kindly expression which one would hardly have expected in one whose neck was in the hemp. Evidently this was no vulgar assassin. The liberal military code makes provision for hanging many kinds of persons, and gentlemen are not excluded.

The preparations being complete, the two private soldiers stepped aside and each drew away the plank upon which he had been standing. The sergeant turned to the captain, saluted and placed himself immediately behind that officer, who in turn moved apart one pace. These movements left the condemned man and the sergeant standing on the two ends of the same plank, which spanned three of the cross-ties of the bridge. The end upon which the civilian stood almost, but not quite, reached a fourth. This plank had been held in place by the weight of the captain; it was now held by that of the sergeant. At a signal from the former the latter would step aside, the plank would tilt and the condemned man go down between two ties. The arrangement commended itself to his judgment as simple and effective. His face had not been covered nor his eyes bandaged. He looked a moment at his "unsteadfast footing," then let his gaze wander to the swirling water of the stream racing madly beneath his feet. A piece of dancing driftwood caught his attention and his eyes followed it down the current. How slowly it appeared to move! What a sluggish stream!

He closed his eyes in order to fix his last thoughts upon his wife and children. The water, touched to gold by the early sun, the brooding mists under the banks at some distance down the stream, the fort, the soldiers, the piece of drift—all had distracted him. And now he became conscious of a new disturbance. Striking through the thought of his dear ones was sound which he could neither ignore nor understand, a sharp, distinct, metallic percussion like the stroke of a blacksmith's hammer upon the anvil; it had the same ringing quality. He wondered what it was, and whether immeasurably distant or near by—it seemed both. Its recurrence was regular, but as slow as the tolling of a death knell. He awaited each new stroke with impatience and—he knew not why—apprehension. The intervals of silence grew progressively longer; the delays became maddening. With their greater infrequency the sounds increased in strength and sharpness. They hurt his ear like the thrust of a knife; he feared he would shriek. What he heard was the ticking of his watch.

He unclosed his eyes and saw again the water below him. "If I could free my hands," he thought, "I might throw off the noose and spring into the stream. By diving I could evade the bullets and, swimming vigorously, reach the bank, take to the woods and get away home. My home, thank God, is as yet outside their lines; my wife and little ones are still beyond the invader's farthest advance."

As these thoughts, which have here to be set down in words, were flashed into the doomed man's brain rather than evolved from it the captain nodded to the sergeant. The sergeant stepped aside.


Peyton Fahrquhar was a well to do planter, of an old and highly respected Alabama family. Being a slave owner and like other slave owners a politician, he was naturally an original secessionist and ardently devoted to the Southern cause. Circumstances of an imperious nature, which it is unnecessary to relate here, had prevented him from taking service with that gallant army which had fought the disastrous campaigns ending with the fall of Corinth, and he chafed under the inglorious restraint, longing for the release of his energies, the larger life of the soldier, the opportunity for distinction. That opportunity, he felt, would come, as it comes to all in wartime. Meanwhile he did what he could. No service was too humble for him to perform in the aid of the South, no adventure to perilous for him to undertake if consistent with the character of a civilian who was at heart a soldier, and who in good faith and without too much qualification assented to at least a part of the frankly villainous dictum that all is fair in love and war.

One evening while Fahrquhar and his wife were sitting on a rustic bench near the entrance to his grounds, a gray-clad soldier rode up to the gate and asked for a drink of water. Mrs. Fahrquhar was only too happy to serve him with her own white hands. While she was fetching the water her husband approached the dusty horseman and inquired eagerly for news from the front.

"The Yanks are repairing the railroads," said the man, "and are getting ready for another advance. They have reached the Owl Creek bridge, put it in order and built a stockade on the north bank. The commandant has issued an order, which is posted everywhere, declaring that any civilian caught interfering with the railroad, its bridges, tunnels, or trains will be summarily hanged. I saw the order."

"How far is it to the Owl Creek bridge?" Fahrquhar asked.

"About thirty miles."

"Is there no force on this side of the creek?"

"Only a picket post half a mile out, on the railroad, and a single sentinel at this end of the bridge."

"Suppose a man—a civilian and student of hanging—should elude the picket post and perhaps get the better of the sentinel," said Fahrquhar, smiling, "what could he accomplish?"

The soldier reflected. "I was there a month ago," he replied. "I observed that the flood of last winter had lodged a great quantity of driftwood against the wooden pier at this end of the bridge. It is now dry and would burn like tinder."

The lady had now brought the water, which the soldier drank. He thanked her ceremoniously, bowed to her husband and rode away. An hour later, after nightfall, he repassed the plantation, going northward in the direction from which he had come. He was a Federal scout.


As Peyton Fahrquhar fell straight downward through the bridge he lost consciousness and was as one already dead. From this state he was awakened—ages later, it seemed to him—by the pain of a sharp pressure upon his throat, followed by a sense of suffocation. Keen, poignant agonies seemed to shoot from his neck downward through every fiber of his body and limbs. These pains appeared to flash along well defined lines of ramification and to beat with an inconceivably rapid periodicity. They seemed like streams of pulsating fire heating him to an intolerable temperature. As to his head, he was conscious of nothing but a feeling of fullness—of congestion. These sensations were unaccompanied by thought. The intellectual part of his nature was already effaced; he had power only to feel, and feeling was torment. He was conscious of motion. Encompassed in a luminous cloud, of which he was now merely the fiery heart, without material substance, he swung through unthinkable arcs of oscillation, like a vast pendulum. Then all at once, with terrible suddenness, the light about him shot upward with the noise of a loud splash; a frightful roaring was in his ears, and all was cold and dark. The power of thought was restored; he knew that the rope had broken and he had fallen into the stream. There was no additional strangulation; the noose about his neck was already suffocating him and kept the water from his lungs. To die of hanging at the bottom of a river!—the idea seemed to him ludicrous. He opened his eyes in the darkness and saw above him a gleam of light, but how distant, how inaccessible! He was still sinking, for the light became fainter and fainter until it was a mere glimmer. Then it began to grow and brighten, and he knew that he was rising toward the surface—knew it with reluctance, for he was now very comfortable. "To be hanged and drowned," he thought, "that is not so bad; but I do not wish to be shot. No; I will not be shot; that is not fair."

He was not conscious of an effort, but a sharp pain in his wrist apprised him that he was trying to free his hands. He gave the struggle his attention, as an idler might observe the feat of a juggler, without interest in the outcome. What splendid effort!—what magnificent, what superhuman strength! Ah, that was a fine endeavor! Bravo! The cord fell away; his arms parted and floated upward, the hands dimly seen on each side in the growing light. He watched them with a new interest as first one and then the other pounced upon the noose at his neck. They tore it away and thrust it fiercely aside, its undulations resembling those of a water snake. "Put it back, put it back!" He thought he shouted these words to his hands, for the undoing of the noose had been succeeded by the direst pang that he had yet experienced. His neck ached horribly; his brain was on fire, his heart, which had been fluttering faintly, gave a great leap, trying to force itself out at his mouth. His whole body was racked and wrenched with an insupportable anguish! But his disobedient hands gave no heed to the command. They beat the water vigorously with quick, downward strokes, forcing him to the surface. He felt his head emerge; his eyes were blinded by the sunlight; his chest expanded convulsively, and with a supreme and crowning agony his lungs engulfed a great draught of air, which instantly he expelled in a shriek!

sunlit woods He was now in full possession of his physical senses. They were, indeed, preternaturally keen and alert. Something in the awful disturbance of his organic system had so exalted and refined them that they made record of things never before perceived. He felt the ripples upon his face and heard their separate sounds as they struck. He looked at the forest on the bank of the stream, saw the individual trees, the leaves and the veining of each leaf—he saw the very insects upon them: the locusts, the brilliant bodied flies, the gray spiders stretching their webs from twig to twig. He noted the prismatic colors in all the dewdrops upon a million blades of grass. The humming of the gnats that danced above the eddies of the stream, the beating of the dragon flies' wings, the strokes of the water spiders' legs, like oars which had lifted their boat—all these made audible music. A fish slid along beneath his eyes and he heard the rush of its body parting the water.

He had come to the surface facing down the stream; in a moment the visible world seemed to wheel slowly round, himself the pivotal point, and he saw the bridge, the fort, the soldiers upon the bridge, the captain, the sergeant, the two privates, his executioners. They were in silhouette against the blue sky. They shouted and gesticulated, pointing at him. The captain had drawn his pistol, but did not fire; the others were unarmed. Their movements were grotesque and horrible, their forms gigantic.

Suddenly he heard a sharp report and something struck the water smartly within a few inches of his head, spattering his face with spray. He heard a second report, and saw one of the sentinels with his rifle at his shoulder, a light cloud of blue smoke rising from the muzzle. The man in the water saw the eye of the man on the bridge gazing into his own through the sights of the rifle. He observed that it was a gray eye and remembered having read that gray eyes were keenest, and that all famous marksmen had them. Nevertheless, this one had missed.

A counter-swirl had caught Fahrquhar and turned him half round; he was again looking at the forest on the bank opposite the fort. The sound of a clear, high voice in a monotonous singsong now rang out behind him and came across the water with a distinctness that pierced and subdued all other sounds, even the beating of the ripples in his ears. Although no soldier, he had frequented camps enough to know the dread significance of that deliberate, drawling, aspirated chant; the lieutenant on shore was taking a part in the morning's work. How coldly and pitilessly—with what an even, calm intonation, presaging, and enforcing tranquility in the men—with what accurately measured interval fell those cruel words:

"Company! . . . Attention! . . . Shoulder arms! . . . Ready! . . . Aim! . . . Fire!"

Fahrquhar dived—dived as deeply as he could. The water roared in his ears like the voice of Niagara, yet he heard the dull thunder of the volley and, rising again toward the surface, met shining bits of metal, singularly flattened, oscillating slowly downward. Some of them touched him on the face and hands, then fell away, continuing their descent. One lodged between his collar and neck; it was uncomfortably warm and he snatched it out.

As he rose to the surface, gasping for breath, he saw that he had been a long time under water; he was perceptibly farther downstream—nearer to safety. The soldiers had almost finished reloading; the metal ramrods flashed all at once in the sunshine as they were drawn from the barrels, turned in the air, and thrust into their sockets. The two sentinels fired again, independently and ineffectually.

The hunted man saw all this over his shoulder; he was now swimming vigorously with the current. His brain was as energetic as his arms and legs; he thought with the rapidity of lightning:

"The officer," he reasoned, "will not make that martinet's error a second time. It is as easy to dodge a volley as a single shot. He has probably already given the command to fire at will. God help me, I cannot dodge them all!"

An appalling splash within two yards of him was followed by a loud, rushing sound, DIMINUENDO, which seemed to travel back through the air to the fort and died in an explosion which stirred the very river to its deeps! A rising sheet of water curved over him, fell down upon him, blinded him, strangled him! The cannon had taken an hand in the game. As he shook his head free from the commotion of the smitten water he heard the deflected shot humming through the air ahead, and in an instant it was cracking and smashing the branches in the forest beyond.

"They will not do that again," he thought; "the next time they will use a charge of grape. I must keep my eye upon the gun; the smoke will apprise me—the report arrives too late; it lags behind the missile. That is a good gun."

Suddenly he felt himself whirled round and round—spinning like a top. The water, the banks, the forests, the now distant bridge, fort and men, all were commingled and blurred. Objects were represented by their colors only; circular horizontal streaks of color—that was all he saw. He had been caught in a vortex and was being whirled on with a velocity of advance and gyration that made him giddy and sick. In few moments he was flung upon the gravel at the foot of the left bank of the stream—the southern bank—and behind a projecting point which concealed him from his enemies. The sudden arrest of his motion, the abrasion of one of his hands on the gravel, restored him, and he wept with delight. He dug his fingers into the sand, threw it over himself in handfuls and audibly blessed it. It looked like diamonds, rubies, emeralds; he could think of nothing beautiful which it did not resemble. The trees upon the bank were giant garden plants; he noted a definite order in their arrangement, inhaled the fragrance of their blooms. A strange roseate light shone through the spaces among their trunks and the wind made in their branches the music of Aeolian harps. He had no wish to perfect his escape—he was content to remain in that enchanting spot until retaken.

A whiz and a rattle of grapeshot among the branches high above his head roused him from his dream. The baffled cannoneer had fired him a random farewell. He sprang to his feet, rushed up the sloping bank, and plunged into the forest.

All that day he traveled, laying his course by the rounding sun. The forest seemed interminable; nowhere did he discover a break in it, not even a woodman's road. He had not known that he lived in so wild a region. There was something uncanny in the revelation.

By nightfall he was fatigued, footsore, famished. The thought of his wife and children urged him on. At last he found a road which led him in what he knew to be the right direction. It was as wide and straight as a city street, yet it seemed untraveled. No fields bordered it, no dwelling anywhere. Not so much as the barking of a dog suggested human habitation. The black bodies of the trees formed a straight wall on both sides, terminating on the horizon in a point, like a diagram in a lesson in perspective. Overhead, as he looked up through this rift in the wood, shone great golden stars looking unfamiliar and grouped in strange constellations. He was sure they were arranged in some order which had a secret and malign significance. The wood on either side was full of singular noises, among which—once, twice, and again—he distinctly heard whispers in an unknown tongue.

His neck was in pain and lifting his hand to it found it horribly swollen. He knew that it had a circle of black where the rope had bruised it. His eyes felt congested; he could no longer close them. His tongue was swollen with thirst; he relieved its fever by thrusting it forward from between his teeth into the cold air. How softly the turf had carpeted the untraveled avenue—he could no longer feel the roadway beneath his feet!

Doubtless, despite his suffering, he had fallen asleep while walking, for now he sees another scene—perhaps he has merely recovered from a delirium. He stands at the gate of his own home. All is as he left it, and all bright and beautiful in the morning sunshine. He must have traveled the entire night. As he pushes open the gate and passes up the wide white walk, he sees a flutter of female garments; his wife, looking fresh and cool and sweet, steps down from the veranda to meet him. At the bottom of the steps she stands waiting, with a smile of ineffable joy, an attitude of matchless grace and dignity. Ah, how beautiful she is! He springs forwards with extended arms. As he is about to clasp her he feels a stunning blow upon the back of the neck; a blinding white light blazes all about him with a sound like the shock of a cannon—then all is darkness and silence!

Peyton Fahrquhar was dead; his body, with a broken neck, swung gently from side to side beneath the timbers of the Owl Creek bridge.

~ The Project Gutenberg Etext of "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" is from the Millennium Fulcrum edition, 1988. This material is now in the public domain.


"One thing's for certain: if you're alive, something terrible's gonna happen to you."
~ from the film Grand Canyon

Definitions -
Seeker: Those of us who are consciously avoiding the truth.
Superior seeker: Those of us who have attained the elevated position where we can look down on those who don't share our views.
~ Anon.

Reader Commentary:

Thank you for a powerful collection of words all pointing to the wordless. I found my way here thru the ND Highlites. What was echoed today for me was how as I jump more and more into the "emptiness" or "living presence" I am paying attention to what catches me and have been noticing with wonder that the whole world appears to be designed as tv/commercials/comedy/beauty/drama to keep me "hooked" so I don't turn inside. Even the beauty of satsangs hook me. At the same time, my way thru this is I notice the "attention catcher" whether tenderness for a baby Canada Goose this morning or my frustration at a driver not signaling etc. and I either go on recognizing I'm caught or I let go. I'm developing an amused benevolence for my mind so eager to notify me continually of what is good and bad, and so incredibly talented at trying to keeping me occupied, filling the silence. But the silence is so filling and present it isn't covered anymore all the time. Anyway several pieces described this so well. A nice mirror. Thanks for your work. ~ Josie K.

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