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

TAT Forum
December 2004

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

Ikegami Honmonji by Hasui Kawase Ikegami Honmonji by Kawase

Most of the items in this issue are in response to last month's call for papers: "Is psychological self-study (self-knowledge, etc.) necessary for spiritual change? Must we change the way we live and act?" The response was the highest to date, and our thanks go to everyone who took the time to reply.

This month's contents:

Pathfinder by Richard Rose | Keep Your Priorities Straight by Christian Campfield | What I Have Learned by Bruce Balter | The Path of Becoming by Bob Fergeson | Eliminating the Dysfunctional by Jim Richardson | What Comes First? by Shelley Edmondson | You Can Only Become the Truth by Gary Harmon | Just Look by Jeff Crilley | Nothing Is Necessary by Bart Marshall | Spiritual Change as Increasing Clarity by Kiffy Purvis | Poems by Shawn Nevins | Is Psychological Change Necessary? by Art Ticknor | Pursuit of Relentless Love by Art Ticknor | The Focus of Attention by Bob Cergol | Humor

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by Richard Rose

Man chooses a spiritual path according to his capacity, the same as he chooses an occupation or profession according to his capacity. Sometimes a man chooses a profession because of emotional association instead of capacity-knowledge, and very often a man chooses his spiritual path for emotional reasons, and does not know it. The latter man does not know his capacity, in fact very few men really know their capacity, because capacity can only be realized by effort beyond the limits which we set for ourselves when we engage in an enterprise, whether the enterprise be economic or spiritual.

As in business, so in spiritual things. Capacity is determined by and identified with intense desire and stubborn application of effort. And as in business, the spiritual capacity of beginners is generally recognized by persons, more mature, who have tested their own capacity and proved the merits of their determination, and who know the symptoms and qualifications that make for success. In business, we may be stubborn and determined, and have all the qualification for a "do or die" project, but unless we find an opportunity or opening in a group of successful businessmen, in their business, or among fellows who dream the same dream as ourselves, our dynamism will flourish like a palm tree at the north pole.

And so in spiritual work. Too many think that they can go it alone. Others choose a path because it appeals to their emotions. Some doubt their own capacity, and settle for an easy course of action. Some overestimate their point of maturity and wish to leap ahead and do anything that is hinted at as being the million dollar step or the discipline that brings knowledge of everything all at once. Some even approach this attempt at the giant step with a foolish reservation that they must hurry at it, get enlightenment so that they can go back to a "normal" life quickly and reenter the game of life.

They never stop to think that when they reach enlightenment, they will possibly have little or no interest in the game of life. So the purpose in this writing is to join with the beginner for spiritual exercise, in looking at a yardstick of sorts, so that the beginner (at least he is a beginner in this field or system) will waste no more time than is necessary, and so that he can establish some balance and discretion in choosing the launching point of his endeavor.

It is not enough just to say that man is a victim of emotional determinations. The business of fooling oneself is very elaborate, and while emotions are generally at the root of the delusion, these emotions are skillfully veiled, and their case is argued against the spiritual convictions of the person with an elaborate diversity and cleverness, so that the person must be very astute and intuitive to survive the argumentative onslaughts.

backpacker The attacks upon objectives of a philosophical or spiritual nature are best labeled as forces of adversity. They include Rationalization, Procrastination, Fear, Fatigue, hereditary inclinations, and others. And the knowledge of the existence of these blocks indicates a need to follow a practice of checking our thinking at all levels.

In speaking here of levels, a good method of designation of levels is the system used by Gurdjieff in which the least exalted man is man number one, and the most exalted is man number seven.

Man number one is Instinctive Man. He rarely pays much attention to religion.

Man number two is Emotional Man. Most people who read this will be in this category, or in Man number three, which is Intellectual Man. Emotional Man is he who chooses his spiritual path because of his application of emotions to religion or philosophy. He may have had a state of exaltation if in his lifetime he evolved from Man number one. The decisive change from one Man-Number to the next is accompanied generally by an exaltation or intense feeling of spiritual conviction that tells him that he has reached the final answer.

When Man number two supplants number one, it means that the man in question has translated his instinctive animal energies into an emotional attachment for survival. The emotional attachment furthermore may be one stimulated by fear, in combination with an intense love for another person (savior or spiritual guide) which exceeds his love for his genetic urges. In this transition there is a moment of exaltation known as "salvation" or "being saved."

Man is his own greatest obstacle to finding Truth. It is only when his natural instincts, appetites, and egos have surrendered and left his field of consciousness, that he is able to think without coloring his own thoughts with wishful thinking. In "being saved" there is no doubt that there is a dropping of instincts, and a partial rejection of some of the appetites.

At this point, let us pause and see if we are Man number two. Do we believe in a personal savior? Do we go to church because the minister is charismatic? Do we follow a guru because he allows us to indulge in autohypnotic methods which bring about a pleasant or peaceful feeling? Are we inspired by writings that appeal to our emotions? Such stories may involve moving accounts of little children, their belief in a religious ideal, or their reaction to such beliefs. They may just as well involve stories of monks and nuns, depicting masochistic reactions to the misery of ascetic life or martyrdom, all of which appeals to the masochism or sadism within ourself.

To summarize a bit for identification of Emotional Man, all who follow a religion or ism with blind belief are people in this category. Devout believers and participators in conventional, organized churches and systems should not look further into this system. This system will not do too much good for Man number two ~ except in rare cases where, accidentally, an emotional attraction to a system of higher number leads the person attracted, to follow it blindly. This is never advised.

When Man number two graduates from his level, he experiences an exaltation of serenity, in which he no longer makes decisions from emotional motivation. He enters the level of Man number three, and embarks upon a frantic, enthusiastic adventure in which he chooses to reach Truth through logical and systematic thinking-processes. One of the things which he attempts is the systematizing and symbolizing of all esoteric knowledge. He treats it like a science, and he will come up with concept-structures all his own. Or he may decide that there is power in symbols and decide on magic or numerology as a means to all knowledge. Or he may simply devote his life to scientific studies in the field of psychology, or pathology. If he has been a devout fundamentalist, he will step over into a methodical study of scriptures such as the Swedenborgian system, a study of the Kabbala, or of another literal method of appraising the scriptures. Man number three is motivated by an intellectual ego that is large. In fact it has taken him quite a few years of his life to reassure himself that his intellectuality knows no bounds. When he reaches the point where he knows beyond doubt that his intellect by itself will not take him to Truth, he suffers the loss of the intellectual ego, and enjoys an exaltation that is known as the bliss of mystics. He becomes a mystic-philosopher. He has learned that he will never learn the Truth, and that if he wants the Truth, he must become it. Of course he does not have any direction for his attempts to become and flounders about, often for many years. He looks into yoga and mysticism. Since he is living in an intellectual vehicle, he will become philosophic, and still try to reason. He has now become Man number four. He will try to use his instinctive, emotional and intellectual mechanisms to sort things out for the Truth.

Man number four is the man ready for the next and last step, the step into Satori or cosmic consciousness. This man will understand these papers (The Albigen Papers) when he reads them, because he has gone through all the previous levels, and thoroughly knows their symptoms. So that Man number four is the man I am most eager to encounter in this adventure, for he has a chance of getting more from the TAT (Truth and Transmission) system than the previous three. Others on the second and third level will not be rejected, but they may reject themselves.

First published in the TAT Journal No. 14. © 1986 by Richard Rose. All Rights Reserved. See the TAT Journal Archive page.

Effective Change

In order to make changes that are in alignment with our true nature, it is likely that the way we live and act will change. Some of us will have to make more dramatic changes than others. The thing is that the changes—in order for them to be genuine—must come directly from one's spiritual connection. If one makes some kind of change, it won't necessarily help them live in a way that is more "spiritual" than they were before. The way it seems is two-fold: 1) Allow for changes to occur of their own accord, and 2) Keep your priorities straight and base your decisions from them.
~ Christian Campfield

What I have learned is that you cannot really keep psychology and spirituality apart.... There is a need for transformation: what really moves one to change, deeply? The question in AA is, can you get out of the driver's seat? You are causing problems because you insist upon control, even in the face of the destruction you are causing. Really, you do not see what you are doing, nor do you know why. The attempt to be in control is out of control. Is there really a difference between the psychology, here, in this, and the spiritual? The language may be different, but the ego-centric cause is the same. It demands a transcendence of the way, the means and the direction. For this to happen, there must be an awakening to interdependence, the longing to connect with others, the need to belong to others and with others, because of the fulfillment through others and for the enjoyment of others. Of course, this will open us and cause us to be vulnerable, but psychology and spirituality will help support those qualities and values that allow a more positive response to strengthen us and reduce our fear. Fulfillment follows from this letting go of isolation, power and control. The separation of subject and object (other) is a false hope, a chasing after an impossible dream. It is the essence, the core of psychology and spirituality.
~ Bruce Balter

From Psychology to the Listening Attention:
The Path of Becoming
by Bob Fergeson

Can we get past the illusive psychology of the flight-or-fight syndrome and the resulting egocentric personality? A discussion on how knowing yourself can lead to greater spiritual possibility. Through becoming objective to our own psychology or personality, we begin to take spiritual work personally, and thus Become.

sleepyhead, by Startzman I've come to see two dominant types of personality, especially in those involved in spiritual seeking or self-definition. These two types, though polar opposites in character, spring from the same cause: our mis-identification with the ego as the real 'I' or Self. These two personalities are the twin modes of action formed from the ego's perceived threat of annihilation at the hands of the Not-self, the environment outside of the body. These types can be defined as the reaction patterns to each half of the fight-or-flight syndrome. What I define as the sleepyhead is the dreamer, the introvert, lost in their imaginations, the somnambulist type. The sleepyhead can be also defined by its opposite, the egocentric type or knucklehead. The sleepyhead flees, runs away and hides from the not-self while the knucklehead tries to control, project and manipulate the environment. Each is relatively unconscious of itself, and thus thinks its manner of dealing with the world is the right or correct way.

The egocentric or knucklehead likes to butt heads with and have control of everything. All has to be done outwardly through the ego to control and force conditions to being favorable to the ego. He stays in the right by learning to fight. The opposite reaction pattern is true of the somnambulistic or sleepyhead, who is lost in dreams and reverie. His reaction, instead of attacking the problem, is simply to ignore it through running away, hiding in dreams, and keeping the ego afloat by living in the imagination. This comes from the passive or flight reaction of the two different halves of the fight-or-flight syndrome.

Sleepyheads and their knucklehead opposites are simply two different unconscious response-patterns to the perceived threat to the individuality-sense by the world or not-self. We don't know we've fallen into identification with a mechanical pattern when we react as a sleepyhead. We may think we're even acting spiritually (being superior), in that our way is the right way. Through self-observation, we can come to see that it all stems from our past and whichever path, fight or flight, we happen to have fallen into.

Paradoxically, in trying to escape the threat of the world, we dive deeper into it by striving to become better and better sleepyheads and knuckleheads. That cannot cure us, since we are trying to solve the problem only on the level of the problem. Through psychology, analysis, and over-thinking, we plot to escape from our pattern, through our pattern, thus the pattern is never ending. The only cure, finally getting well, is in seeing ourselves as we really Are. We may become subtler in our self-delusion and think we're spiritual, but we still have not come to a true understanding. The cure begins when we get to the stage of raising mind, in learning how to stay in the moment: facing the present without self-identification with reaction, only.

We could not do this as children; we were helpless. But as adults, with the help of a spiritually oriented group, teachers and friends, we have the chance to act in self-knowledge and find our way back to innocence and silence. This is often only brought about through trauma, which clears the pattern, at least temporarily, enabling us to glimpse the world from a clear perspective. This can lead into the listening attention, to being able to stay in the moment, without being identified with the animal reaction-pattern.

One of the dangers facing the sleepyhead is that when he hears a talk on effortlessness, mindfulness meditation, or the various schools that say there is nothing to do as we are not the doer, it sounds great. He jumps on this subject of effortlessness because it fits his ego pattern. He thinks he understands what they're talking about. It's only until after he comes to know himself, through hard practice leading to a realization, that he comes to understand that he did not know what effortlessness really was, that he had no idea of the Void, true detachment, or of not being the doer. He didn't have the true sense of it. All he had was a pattern of blocking things out through distraction, imagination, fear, pride, and laziness, being in the reverie of the sleepyhead. He mistakes being hypnotized, by dreams, reverie and moods, for doing nothing or no-mind. Habitual reverie is usually a sign of this mistake. Some people, being in reverie much of the time, may get quite defensive when it's called to their attention. A period of time in a group that practices confrontation might do wonders for pointing this out, if they can stand the tension. Our society and home environment are our first teachers, forming the basic personality. Where did our basic reaction of either fight or flight come from? It was a sane reaction to madness. We ran away from the moment because it was unacceptable. Thus, our innocence was lost, and we eventually became what we were running from. The fearful or aggressive reaction to life and its tensions led to the destruction of innocence and removed the ability to stay in the present. Through cunning, we learned to escape the present, and eventually came to be asleep with our heads in the sand. All that we were left with is that very cunning, operating through fear or violence. Eventually, we became that which we despised.

Knucklehead Smiff A pivotal moment in my own loss of innocence came about at a young age one morning in my grandfather's backyard. I was playing with the gardener's son; we were fast becoming friends as the rapport deepened. I suggested that we should get together and spend the night at one of our houses and have dinner together. This was a relatively normal event at that age with other friends. He agreed, and we went to the gardener, his father, and proposed the idea. The look on his face when hearing of our idea is something I will never forget. Until that moment, I had not realized that he and his son were black, and that I was white. That he was the servant, and I, the grandson of his master. He told me in no uncertain terms that his son and I could never be friends. I then had a very clear moment of realization. I saw that the world of the gardener and my grandfather, and that of all adults, was insane. It was based on rules of behavior that were false and contrived, and yet somehow functional. I resolved then and there that I would never enter the adult state of mind. Decades later, I had the equally clear realization that this decision had somehow led me into the very state of mind I had sworn to avoid. I had become that which I despised: a fearful adult living in a false paradigm of isolation and ignorance.

This second realization and the circumstances that precipitated it, lead me to the further realization that there was a way out of the action-reaction trap. I began to see that there was a third possibility, above and beyond that of child and adult. I had taken a small but sure step within. The subjective world of mindless action-reaction was replaced with a compassionate intelligence that had no interest in the ego games of the sleepyhead-knucklehead dichotomy.

We can't receive from the Higher or Inner Self if we are mechanical and asleep, emotionally and mentally, projecting an unreal "self" of unconscious psychology. To make contact with something Higher, we must find ourselves as observers rather than pattern-projectors. Raising mind, through focused attention in the present, leading to the listening attention, is a way to wake up for sleepyheads. Learning to listen, to have a passive but attentive reaction, can help knuckleheads to become objective. This listening attention, alertness without past or future worries, gives both types the possibility of receiving from the Inner Self. A rigid pattern-reaction solely based on the past is devoid of real intelligence, much less Being.

Being aware of who you really are in the moment, or the listening attention, is a wonderful paradox in that it's how we may stop the ceaseless mind chatter of the internal dialogue. Instead of stopping the mind chatter by force, by thinking other thoughts through an act of will, all we do is simply listen. You may find that there's something within that wishes to start conveying information, to tell you something that maybe you need to pay attention to. This quiet inner voice, our conscience, can only be heard when the mind is relatively quiet. Then, you can start seeing what your real problems are, why you're running from the present, and perhaps thus discover your deeper motivations, freeing your attention from the self-survival obsessions long enough to take a deeper look within. While you're in that state of listening, you can turn the attention inward and look within at what you're looking out of, and perhaps come to a startling discovery.

We're not going to make contact with the Inner Self, the source of wisdom, and find inner peace and stability, without setting up the right conditions. Now these right conditions are not as much an effort or trying to control something as much as a returning to what we might call innocence. We need to have a quiet mind, a stillness in the animal body. Overwhelming desires and obsessions must be faced and dealt with, cleared out of the picture. This doesn't mean we fight or control them, or run away and ignore them, as much as become aware of them and see the difference between them and us. Then we can come to the point of focused attention in the moment, and possibly, the listening attention.

The daily remembering and clear admission of our internal angst is key to the eventual ability to face the moment. It gives us energy and incentive to separate from being identified with the psychological manifestations of personality in the drama of the sleepyhead-knucklehead, and how this misidentification traps our attention in the illusions of the mind. Once relaxed, we can jump straight into the still, aware silence: the listening attention. In other words, we go straight from personality right back up to what we really Are. We go from being a very complicated psychology, to being a very simple two-way seeing. We learn how to listen, to just look at the facts always in front of our vision, while simultaneously looking back at what we really Are. Psychological work is used only to show us that we don't have a quiet mind, no freedom of attention, and thus cannot tell the real from the false. Once we realize that having a quiet mind is something you simply find, it's always there just under the surface, you no longer have to think about it, put effort into it, build it up. It's a retreat from complicated error and projection back to the simple truth of ourselves as aware capacity, indescribable and real.

After we come to the psychological realization and self-admission that we're misidentified spiritually, that we have become our own enemy, even that which we despise, we can come back from psychological theory and find what we need to do; to take action rather than talk and analyze. We must say to ourselves: "now that I realize I do not know the truth, I also realize this way that I am does not work, that it has not brought me happiness or peace, power or fulfillment; that there has to be some other way." Then we can begin to look within, and find what we really are through the listening attention. We see the value in being able to receive perceptions without the filter of our errant psychology. We no longer take our sense of "I" from the active personality-self, the psychological part we play as sleepyheads and knuckleheads. This sense of "I" has moved within, into our very seeing. We now take our lead, or our feeling of who we are, from farther within, rather than from a changing reaction-pattern to the world without. Now, "looking back at what we are looking out of" has a chance of becoming something more than clever words.

The point of all of this is not to make ourselves into more efficient persons, with better, more flexible personalities, though this may be the case. The point is to separate our inherent, basic awareness from the world of action or mind. Awareness and action are not mutually destructive. They can co-exist without interference. The problem is in the placement of our sense of "I." When the sense of "I" is lured into identification with the ever-changing picture show of action in the mind, the movement hypnotizes it and we are lost, separated from our Source in motionless aware silence. Through self-knowledge leading to pure observation, we can return to our true Home in simple awareness, no longer lost in the drama of movement in mind. Paradoxically, the play may continue, with the outer man remaining fixed in his pattern, whether a sleepyhead or not, but he will no longer be us.

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

Doing & Letting Go

Is psychological self-study (self-knowledge, etc.) necessary for spiritual change? I can't say that it's "necessary" but, in my case, it was important to dig into and finally uncover the underlying, dysfunctional family issues that had messed up my efforts to get anywhere with studies of Advaita, mysticism, meditation, metaphysics, philosophy, the Now and spirituality in general. Even though I had met and shortly lived with an awakened person who introduced me to Hindu concepts and "Who Am I?" at about 19, at about 49, I still had to get into emotional healing and family grief work in 12-step recovery groups for several years after which, much of my previous Advaita/philosophy studies have begun to bear fruit.

Must we change the way we live and act? I certainly had to change my life and actions before the teachings of R. Maharshi and so many others were attainable or even understandable. I had to stop doing terrible things and being extremely dysfunctional and self destructive before finding my True self or being in the Now, etc. was even possible. It is clear to me now that, if we/I can ever realize that there is no "me," no doer, no experiencer, no ego, no separate person anywhere, etc., this alone might bring about any changes that may or may not be needed in life.
~ Jim Richardson

The question is, what comes first the cart or the horse? Many religions historically instructed, and still do, changing behaviour as a way to grow spiritually. Prayers, mantras, vegetarianism, sexual abstinence, bowing, etc. Yet, true change in behaviour, an outward appearance, can only be truly integrous and lasting if some inner perception of ourselves and the world changes first. Many advaita types of practices I think concentrate on inner knowing, and that, in my experience can be quite freeing from the illusions of ego-self. Yet, in the moment I see the illusion I have been operating under, and surrender that, I know I am in need of help from the Absolute, not to return to that very illusion.

Some more mystical/devotional styles of the spiritual path seem to forgo the direct discovery of these very same illusions. I have found in my own life, it is at the most surrendered times, devoid of direct self inquiry, that the "gift" of knowing suddenly appears.

I have read of saints from times past who have practiced methods I find antiquated and cumbersome. Nevertheless, they found what they were seeking. So, all this to say, psychological self study or self knowledge is an integral part of the path, but this alone cannot lead one to "enlightenment," and mystical union brings with it self-knowledge or it is not effective.

One thing more. Jesus said, by their fruits you shall know them. This is a guideline of Truth, that the actions, words, etc. of those who have surrendered the ego self and have "God union" in fact are changed internally, and their actions are in alignment with that change. If this is not forthcoming, it is not to be trusted.
~ Shelley Edmondson

You Can Only Become the Truth
by Gary Harmon

You can't know the truth, but you can become the truth. You are what you do, not what you know. Spiritual change is a process which will change the state of mind and result in a change in the state of being.

There are several things we can do to center ourselves so that we can think more clearly. There are more than a few writings that advise to become as a little child. That early state that we all have witnessed was innocent and carefree for the most part. Before the age of two and a half we don't really consider ourselves as a separate, singular individual—we are better defined as the entire world from that perspective. Then we are told that we are that one in the mirror and start believing we are that reflection. At a latter age, especially after puberty, that freedom of early childhood is seldom realized again for we grow up to become adults with adult problems.

Ephrata hymnbook Consider what a period of chastity might reveal. To again centre the mind and live as a child aware of awareness, not adult and social style games—is this possible? Yes, it can rationally be done. As an experiment you might try purposely abstaining for twenty-eight days and take a vacation from the normal routine. Of course, if married this may require special considerations. Sound radical? OK, but we have a unique mission if we care to take the challenge of absolute self-discovery. The peace that most attempt to find is only relative peace. Relative peace comes and goes, but what if it were possible to attain a more stable tranquility. Chastity is a way of shutting the doors to outside influences that are like waves that rise and fall. There is no better way to develop the intuition and become less of an animal and more in tune with your true being.

Psychological—for lack of a better word—enquiry is truly essential for assisting and gauging our progress as we go thru different phases that will result in a permanent change of being.

Realization is about understanding, not about making your life work or accumulating wealth, fame and security. It is not something added to your existing circumstance, or a sense of existence you are trying to improve upon. It is more of a simplifying and coming to terms with your life. It is a backing away from wrong conclusions which have become delusions and hinder a direct view of what is. The search is a subtraction process that results in the only apparent life which is left after removal of the exposed shadows. One should utilize whatever is necessary in the field of psychosomatic tools and utilize common sense to better see how we fool and patronize ourselves.

The result is a different perspective from the herd mentality that relishes its animal programming as being who one really is. Our society has accepted silicone gel packs, anorexia, plastic surgery and blood rerouting as a reality which somehow makes us better and more exceptional human animals.

You are what you do, not what you know, and you can not learn the truth, you can only become it. So with that in mind determination is not enough, it requires action. In other words, you have to get beyond the physical so that you can clearly see yourself and what you are doing. It's like finding out that you have been kicking yourself without realizing it, causing your own pain. That's all your fantasy of a separate identity amounts to. However, as long as you're trying to make the fairy-tale work out one way or another, you can't really observe yourself because you are the agonizing activity you're trying to observe.

There is only awareness. You do not really even exist—not as it seems, at any rate.

To cross over and then return will require all the energy we can muster and usually requires a lifetime of effort. It must be an all or nothing intention, which is why it is best to begin this course at an early age. Even death can not be dreaded. You must take the fear of death and turn that into the death of fear. That is when factual self-observation begins and not before.

To retreat from error and not tolerate untruth on any level is to live the path of the determined spiritual seeker. A quitter never wins and a winner never quits. It takes one-pointedness of direction to transcend the bondage of clinging to a sham identity. Liberation is living a profound understanding of this principle.

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

Just Look
by Jeff Crilley

Look, just look—I can't, I say,
I'm troubled from the break of day.
Morning, afternoon, and night,
to prove myself, my life, I fight.

Feelings, thoughts, concerns all three,
these are all that I can see—
How, Oh how to get past me—
What can I do to come to Be?

Look, just look
Look and see,
by that alone you'll come to Me.

Wait, no wait, there must be more,
something else, some other chore,
for what you ask I cannot do;
I am lost, without a clue.

Trust me when you hear Me say,
your true heart e'er knows the way—
Just find and follow its golden ray,
straight back beyond down through the fray.

But enough talk at last from you to Me
Listen close, now hear My Plea:
Look, just Look
Look and See,
Drop all else and come to Me.

Nothing Is Necessary
by Bart Marshall

farm road Nothing is necessary for spiritual change. In fact, nothing needs to change—spiritual or otherwise. It is as it is and it's perfect—an ever-new emergence of All from Void—now and now and now... This is the absolute truth. And yet, the obstacles to having truth flood one's being are formidable. Why is this? Why is it so difficult to see the truth of who we are? For something as obvious and self-evident as one's natural state to remain unseen and unexperienced is a masterpiece of legerdemain. It seems the only explanation is that a powerful counter-force is in play, and indeed that's the case. The magician at work is the id-entity, an elusive phantom that will fight to the death—literally—to maintain the illusion it creates.

The most expedient method for dislodging the id-entity is to confront it directly and ask tough questions. This is self-inquiry, self-interrogation. Don't be distracted by the flurry of decoys and red herrings it throws out—the personality quirks and tantalizing memories of past imperfections. This is where it wants to play, in the muck and mire of personal history. Here it has home field advantage. It will do everything in its power to keep you looking under those rocks for the duration. There's no end to it. Rather, look straight at it, at the heart of the matter, at the myth of personhood itself. Is there a self to study? If so, then by all means have at it. If not, why study something that doesn't exist? First things first.

A certain amount of persona-study is necessary to demystify the workings of one's particular vehicle. Beyond that it risks becoming a narcissistic indulgence. We need only be concerned with those aspects of persona that block truth. In actuality, very few of one's traits fall into this category. Focus on those and leave the rest to wither. How can we know which ones stand in the way? Move along a narrow path in the direction of your longest view and see what you hit. The direction of your movement will determine what stands in the way. Deal only with those things that block the path and keep moving. Do not look right or left at extraneous quirks that appear to need fixing—Sirens conjured by the identity to distract and delay you. Don't get sidetracked trying to become a better robot. Don't waste time polishing the turd. It doesn't hold truth and it won't take a shine.

The path is subtractive here as elsewhere. We love what we believe to be unique personal aspects of our individuality—memories, character traits, opinions... We like to think of ourselves as extremely complex, with burdens and challenges and destinies of mythic proportion. That's a lot to carry. Weed out as much of this as possible and focus available energy on actual obstacles, not seductive cul-de-sacs and dead ends. The danger is that psychological self-study becomes an ego game, a goal in itself—an endless tail-chasing device that locks one into the idea that the person can be fixed, that it needs to be fixed before moving forward. It becomes a reason for procrastination, a reason to refuse freedom, a reason to hold grace at bay. "I am not yet worthy," we protest, and fend off God with all our might.

Move in any direction, and the way you live and act will quite naturally come into alignment with that direction. This does not need to be taken on as a separate task. The key is direction. Choose wisely, set your sights on the furthest point in current view and move out smartly. As Rose used to say, "Keep your head on it." Such a casual and simple phrase but so powerful. What are you thinking about? Where is your head? To modify Jesus a bit: Where your head is, there will your spirit be also.

Spiritual Change as Increasing Clarity
by Kiffy Purvis

Is psychological self-study (self-knowledge, etc.) necessary for spiritual change? Must we change the way we live and act?

prodigal son's return Yes. I do not know anything about any sort of final awareness, or final spiritual change. I can only speak to answer this question from a perspective of relative awareness of my current state vs. the state I found myself in four years ago. And from that perspective, it seems clear to me that knowing oneself in a mundane manner (knowing what makes one happy, what is important to oneself, etc.) is absolutely vital in affecting significant internal change.

The realization of the importance of this aspect of spiritual work did not come to me after I had spent some time at the effort, after I had spent a year meditating, or analyzing myself psychologically. It came to me before the effort even began, when I was seventeen years old approaching the end of my senior year of high school. At the beginning of my senior year of high school, I felt I had finally arrived on the social scene. I had finally gotten the respect I felt I deserved, and I relished this feeling of accomplishment for a good six months. I am not sure what brought about the end of this smug, self-absorbed adolescent satisfaction. What I do know, however, is that one day, for some reason I am still not aware of, I woke up with the feeling that something was wrong. Over the next few days the feeling grew, until one night I went to my parents and said to them, "Something is really wrong, and I don't know what it is."

They had no answer for me except to go see the school psychologist. But after going and sitting down with the school psychologist, she hadn't the faintest clue of what I was talking about. So, I was left to trying to figure out what was wrong for myself. But I didn't know where to begin, who to talk to, what to do. So I did more drugs than I had done before, drank more alcohol, and was soon drinking at 9:30 in the morning. I had no idea at the time, but what I was doing was trying to get as far away from the feeling of something being wrong as I possibly could. But alcohol and drugs only worked for so long. I remember one night in March, after fighting with my mom about my newfound reckless disregard for my own health, when I stormed out of my house and drove off in the family car in a fury. Slowly, the emotions calmed, and I found myself now 50 miles from my house, driving aimlessly. And I liked it. For the first time in my life, I found myself asking questions such as "Why did that bother me so much? What is wrong?" These were my first attempts at self-inquiry, though they came about without any effort on my part.

From that day forward something changed. I no longer viewed happiness as fancy cars and big houses. I realized that the search for peace of mind was internal, not some matter of getting just the right bundle of outer possessions or esteem.

And yet, I struggled with this. Even now, I find myself continuing to struggle with this idea of getting to know myself. This is because to me, self-knowledge means becoming aware of not just what makes me happy, but also what my driving force is in life. And the more time I spend trying to get an objective sense of who and what I am, in a personality sense, it becomes clearer and clearer to me that the primary driving force of my personality is aimed at protecting my sense of self while simultaneously trying to have that sense of self inflated by whatever means necessary. In short, self-knowledge means becoming more aware of selfishness. And yet, paradoxically, knowing that I am selfish, seemingly through and through, means unavoidably seeing that everyone in my life is in the exact same position of defensiveness, of desire for uncontested acquisition. This seeing of myself as similar to my fellow human beings cannot help but trigger in me slight hints of compassion, slight feelings of unselfishness, and the knowledge that I have changed from the person I was four years ago, even if that change has only come in a small way.

I have never been aware of any distinct "crossing-over" or "breakthroughs." Thus, to me, the definition of real spiritual change is a more distinct ability to perceive my situation relative to the cosmos, and also relative to my fellow human beings. In effect, spiritual change, as I currently define it, means an increase in clarity. In that sense, then, knowing one's own mind and personality better are indispensable in the search for internal movement. And if a person comes to realize this, and simultaneously is aware of their desire for internal change, they may not be able to do anything but to change their current lifestyle in such a way that pretense becomes less necessary, and sincerity, both with oneself and with others, becomes the priority.

Poems by Shawn Nevins

No words today
and no care.
I am wading through a cool breeze
in the heat of day.


"The First Words are Real"

I only mimic and rearrange
      the beauty that arises
      from the center of my chest
            is original.
I am the film.
That voice is more substantial
than anything I believe.


"For Sergeant Walters"

He fought
with fury and abandon
because he was....

Prarabdha moved its mighty wheel
and crushed him
as it should be.

As it was revealed
by the moment
when the wave water recedes
and he sees
what he truly is
all his life,


A lake reflecting trees,
trees reflecting the lake,
shimmering within.


Every poem is a glimpse
— a signal light on stormy seas —
of safe harbor.
The harbor is shimmering with emptiness.
For a long time you laugh
— an eternity —
then all is silent.


Death relieves you of many dreams;
allows you to see that line
between sea and sky
where waves unroll with grace
into open air.
Every step of your life
slips silently from your care,
as these smokey words
trail off into yesterdays.

Is Psychological Change Necessary?
by Art Ticknor

It most definitely was in my case. I was 33 when I met Richard Rose and had my first exposure to the possibility of finding a total answer to the questions of life and death. I was married, had a family I adored, a good job, house, cars—but I knew something was missing in terms of life-purpose and meaning. For over a decade I'd been scanning the horizon for the solution, but no matter what I considered, I could see it wouldn't provide lasting satisfaction. Then I heard Rose's message that all answers are within and that finding the answer to the "Who am I?" question simultaneously solves all problems.

confusion over the direction to take That's when the work began. How does one go within? I wasn't naturally introspective, not contemplative by nature. If I'd been "ready," my psychological condition or state of being would have been ripe for the two-punch knockout that leads to total realization. The first punch causes us to see what we're looking out from, what we really are at the core of our being. We can even be talked into that seeing by another person or induced into it by the presence of someone who's preceded us, but it is still at the level of psychological knowing. If the teacher has only gotten this far, then the student is likely to conclude that such knowing is the final answer. This condition spawns the "just realize that you're enlightened; there's nothing to be done" adherents.

The second punch, the KO, depends upon being able to accept the implications of what we've seen. There's a progression of self-images or self-identifications that have to be seen as not-self before we get to the final self-image—the self as observer—that has to be transcended. This progressive elimination of the not-selves that we're identified with is the psychological change that's necessary before we're ready to accept the truth.

Gautama Buddha laid out an eightfold plan for this progression, beginning with externals and moving up to internal changes. Richard Rose outlined a metasystem, a threefold path that distills the essence of Buddha's advice to take refuge only in the buddha, the dharma and the sangha, and which Rose saw as equivalent to the way, the life and the truth of Jesus.

In order to become detached from our wrong self-identities, we can either wait passively and hope that life provides the proper traumas, or we can take a proactive approach of making our life an answer-seeking arrow. This may start with physical and lifestyle changes, which Rose referred to as "setting the house in order." During my first solitary retreat, a light bulb went on in my head and with it came the conviction that my only chance for finding mental clarity lay in a period of sexual abstinence. We generally have no idea how enslaved we are to the sex drive until we attempt to gain control over it. And any enslavement indicates an attachment that's part of a self-image.

Becoming an answer-seeking arrow makes sense to the person who intuits that the answer is beyond conceptual knowing and involves a change of being. This is something that the psyche, the mind, cannot reach. We become the answer. There's an obvious paradox here, since the testimony throughout the ages is that we become what we have always been—which is another indication that the answer lies beyond conceptual understanding, beyond the mind.

I am pursuing you with relentless love,
awaiting your return with infinite patience,
ready to enfold you in the boundless love of true identity.

When you've suffered long enough
with your dreams of temporal satisfaction,
turn around and come home.

I am always waiting to guide you
since I know you've lost your way.
I am always right behind you.

The Focus of Attention
by Bob Cergol

gate That which is spiritual about us is unchanging and beyond cause and effect. The question therefore becomes: What is necessary for realization of our fundamental, spiritual nature?

No amount of so-called psychological self-study will convert a physical body into a soul. Nor will such study enable the personality to outlast the body.

A lifetime of self-denial and good works is insufficient premium for a payout of wisdom, let alone sufficient enticement for God to confer immortality.

To base one's hope for spiritual change on the notion of becoming is to mislead oneself. This is the personality conceiving Self-realization or spirituality as a process of acquisition and a process of evolving into something superior to that personality yet still built upon that same personality.

Self-transcendence or Self-realization requires un-becoming! Self-transcendence or Self-realization requires that one's attention turn in on itself.

The means for this is to witness, or observe experience—most particularly the fundamental experience of individuality—both one's reactions and one's actual sense of being.

Personal existence is basically an experience—an appearance of being.

Experience has a profound affect upon the attention. Experience generates and affirms identity. The identity-experience becomes the lens through which all other experience is focused and measured for threat to that identity, or enhancement of that identity.

Witnessing, or observing experience disrupts this cycle of identity weaving itself from experience. Call it psychological self-study if you like, but whatever it is called it is necessary for Self-realization.

Self-observation reveals that the way we live and act results in specific experiences and affects the focus of the attention. Therefore making or attempting to make a change in the way one lives and acts can have a beneficial effect on the focus of one's attention. This is the main, perhaps only, spiritual benefit from action, i.e. the resultant effect it has upon the attention.

Self-transcendence requires developing an inward looking vector of the attention. The means to develop this vector includes making changes in one's life and behavior as needed to make room for, and encourage, such self-examination.


Albert Einstein Albert Einstein


He who joyfully marches in rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would suffice.
~ Albert Einstein

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