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

February 2006

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

This month's contents:

Blue door - Houmt Souk

Zen, Spiritual Steps & Spiritual Systems (part 4) by Richard Rose | The Holy Longing by J.W. von Goethe | Number Our Days by Art Ticknor | On Commitment by W.H. Murray | Observing Our Afflictions by Bob Fergeson | Commentaries on the Aphorisms by Franklin Merrell-Wolff | Poems by Shawn Nevins | The Disease of Non-Dualism by Shawn Nevins | Humor

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Zen, Spiritual Steps & Spiritual Systems
~ From a 1974 talk in Cleveland, Ohio—Conclusion (cont'd from Part 3)
by Richard Rose

Q: I've heard that the Zen path begins by joining a group and helping that group. But is it possible that I could get the book and do this on my own?

Rose: You can even do it on your own without the book. I don't put any restrictions. I say that the main requisite for finding the Truth is to search for your God or your being with all of your available energy. Don't kid yourself when you're doing it, and you'll find it.

I think you'll gravitate into certain groups. This more or less explains our particular group and the way we function. I've written a book [The Albigen Papers] and in it I have ten or twenty laws that I have discovered in my lifetime as being expedient or helpful. One of them is the Law of the Ladder. In very simple terms—and this is probably part of the reason I am here now, as I told you—I believe that man must help somebody. This is the only human relationship.

There is always somebody you can help. Some people say, "I don't know anything—who can I help?" That's nonsense. You know something; you've read some book. You can exchange a book with somebody, you can hold a discussion.

And most of our groups are doing this. They hold their own private meditation sessions, they hold their own confrontation sessions, and they plan and work together on three levels. Your whole being must function, not just your head. You must put the body to work, the mind—and of course hope that by putting those two to work something else is kicked into action, which is your essence—or let's say your spiritual quantum.

Q: It seems that the only advantage or whatever of finding this is to satisfy your curiosity?

Rose: No, no. That's the seed—that you can't help. The advantage to finding the Truth is to find out who is curious. There's no point in being curious unless you know who is curious. There's no point in living unless you know who's living. When you say "satisfy your curiosity," who do you mean by "you"? You must first find out who is talking.

The Importance of Being Earnest - literature.wikia.com Q: And what does that mean, if I find out who I am?

Rose: Then you live serenely and die serenely. You know the answer. There's no more shaking at the guillotine—the daily guillotine that hangs over you. You're no longer standing and shaking every day.

Q: So it's just the elimination of tension?

Rose: Oh well, you can simplify it if you want to....

Q: [Bob Martin, Rose's friend]: You're selling it too short, Dick. There's no words to describe the incredible state of being....

Rose: What good is it to talk about an incredible state if you can't bring it out here in a briefcase and show it to somebody? There's no point in talking about it. The only thing you can do in your life is retreat from error. You cannot approach wisdom, you cannot approach a given aim. You cannot postulate and reach for a postulation. The only thing you can do is try to be less ignorant.

We are a group called ignoramuses anonymous. And from this retreat from ignorance by progressive laws, by casting out that which is ridiculous, if nothing else, you will automatically push yourself like a jet away from the mundane. That is the process. What it does for you in the long run, or what it means to you—you have to decide that.

Q: [Inaudible question about the different paths that Rose went through in his life.]

Rose: Well, I was just—[humorously] that was some of the many things I lost.

Q: I mean, you think Zen Buddhism is it, right?

Rose: No, no. For a man who can only quench his thirst with wine, maybe wine is better than water. To each his own. There are people on certain levels. What I'm trying to do is to draw you a picture of the steps that certain people must go through—say, meditation: this is the only thing they respond to. It's the only thing they can do or can understand.

And it actually at that time appeals to their intuition. It did to me. I thought, "That's the only thing." I was not ready to listen to any Zen teachers. Because that was my maximum—to me the maximum reward. I drew you a picture of my life, so to speak. Whatever conclusions you draw from it, that's all right. I'm not outlawing any of these steps.

Martin: I think he's asking, "Are there not other ways, that you would not call Zen at all, that would take you all the way?"

Rose: Right, right. I said that at the beginning. The only thing is that we cannot talk about them all tonight. And I don't have much expertise in all of them. You have to do something, but not everything. If you do everything, your energy is dissipated. That's what I did when I was in my twenties. I tried to do everything at once.

I propose basically that you take one system and follow it. And I won't say it has to be this. And I say whoever reaches an exaltation, why, this is wonderful. I think one of the worst things you can do is say there's only one system.

Bob and I met a man years ago who had made the remark that there were as many systems as there are paths up the hillside [to the barn]....

Martin: ... And there are eleven million ways to walk the last mile.

Rose: And this is very true. The only thing is, not everybody can show you the eleven million ways. We've got to pick one and work on it. If your intuition leads you in a certain direction, by all means follow it and exhaust it. But exhaust it. Give it all you've got.

Q: What about sexual energy? In a system of total growth, you have to include it. This is very important. Most religions either repress is or worship it.

Rose: Are you telling me something or are you asking me something?

Q: What about it?

Rose: What do you want me to say? Do you want me to endorse one or the other? [Laughs.]

Q: I think it's a very important question.

Rose: Well, if your intuition tells you it's important, then by all means follow that path.

Q [someone else]: Are you speaking of kundalini?

Rose: That is something else. That is not the worshipping of sex. When somebody tells me they worship sex, I immediately think of some form of tantric yoga or Aleister Crowley's manipulations. But I have the highest respect for the intelligent use of kundalini yoga.

Q [the previous person]: But you are dividing it. You are saying that sexual energy is separate from spiritual energy.

Rose: Well, you know then—you know that they're the same?

Q: I feel they are.

Rose: You feel. Well, your feelings are as good as anyone else's. But if that's what motivates you, that's what I say, then that's your path. It's not debatable. That's your particular choice, that's all.

Q: With the particular system of Zen that you follow or are talking about, you answer questions in your mind about what That is or isn't, about where you came from...?

Rose: When you reach that point, which is referred to as sahaja samadhi, you know everything. And nothing.

Now I'm not being facetious....

Q: I know.

Rose: In what you were asking for, I would say you know everything. But anything that we struggle for in this search for truth is almost objective. We picture a God with whiskers. You don't find a God with whiskers. You don't find a being motivated by human justice standards.

We picture a God in our own image and likeness. They didn't say it right in Genesis. God didn't create man in his own image and likeness. Man created god in man's image and likeness.

So we can't conceive of any treatment by that deity or by that absolute essence which wouldn't be answerable to human standards of justice: "He just wouldn't do that to us."

We're not that important.

Q: [Inaudible] ... were you talking about physical death or psychological death, or what?

Rose: You mean in the part of the experience?

Q. Yes.

Rose: I'm talking about both. Because you lose your physical consciousness, and you lose your hope of a spiritual life.

Q: That's part of the ego that's left...?

Rose: That's the final.

Q: But you don't necessarily have to experience the physical death.

Rose: Oh, the body actually doesn't die, no. But to your belief, it's dying. You quite believe it's dying.

Q: Is the spirit of Zen incompatible with a belief in a religion?

Rose: Absolutely not. I call it a psychoanalytic system, that's all. A self-psychoanalytic system.

There's something I wanted to tell you. If you can get a hold of a Reader's Digest, October 1974, there's an article in it: I Died at 10:52." This man [Victor Solow] went through the equivalent of an enlightenment experience. I don't know if he knew it when he submitted the article to Reader's Digest, or how it got in there, but when I read it I realized that this man had met the answer and had come back.

He had a heart attack in an automobile. His wife took him to the hospital, and he was supposedly pronounced dead for something like twenty minutes. And when he came back, strangely enough he had no aftereffects of this delayed heartbeat and everything.

But this will give you I think a very clear episode of what seems to be in the magazine at least an accidental enlightenment experience. We don't know. I don't know what the life history was. He may have been a very religious man.

Q: Can you tell us something about your experience?

Rose: Yes. Incidentally, in the book there's a short description of it ["The Three Books of the Absolute," at the end of The Albigen Papers and also in Profound Writings, East & West].

Cascade Mountains - Seattle to Amsterdam flight

It happened when I was in Seattle, Washington. As I said, I believe it was brought about by pulling myself in two different directions. For seven years of my life, I was pulling in strictly one direction. And then I began to be pulled both by the objective world and by an intensely mental struggle. And as a result of this—at least I blame it on that—this experience occurred.

I was away from anyone I knew, in Seattle, in a hotel. And I was doing my yoga exercises—I had kept it up; I was still trying to halfheartedly keep some sort of discipline. I was sitting on a bed. I would get up on the middle of the bed and tuck my legs underneath me, and I'd meditate. And a pain started in the center of my head. I was thirty-two years old, and I didn't think it was possibly a stroke. But it was intense, and I didn't think I would survive it—it was that type of pain.

The pain was so intense that I started weeping from it, and I just couldn't stop myself. But I went out the window. The next thing I was conscious of was that I left the bed and went out the window. Now this was not a dream. I saw the people on the street, which I couldn't have seen from the bed. I saw everyone on the street.

The Cascade Mountains were out the window, also—that's the mountains between Seattle and the sea. I remember going in that direction—up. And the higher I got, the people on the street, the city of Seattle, seemed to be less significant. And I went through what was like a flip-over, and I saw that—no, not even a planet—but I saw humanity. The entire pyramid of humanity—it was in a pyramid form, incidentally, like a maggot pile, struggling spiritually. I could see them all struggling, climbing spiritually.

And by watching it, I could find myself. I could pick myself out in this—I call it the Cavalcade of Life. Then I realized that this tiny man and the Observer were one. And not only that, but the Observer—the final Observer—is the Absolute.

And I even sensed and felt, however you want to express it, the sorrow of everyone that was in that pyramid—this whole pyramid of humanity fighting for the top. So it wasn't a pleasant experience—until, actually, all of that ceased. And I realized that all of this was nothing. It was an illusion. Whichever way you looked at it, it was an illusion—that it was actually nothing but Me. This is the final experience.

Now of course, after—I don't know how many hours it happened, there was no clock—I found myself in the room, and the pain was gone, and the memory of what I had been through, what I had witnessed....

[Break at end of tape.]

© 1974 by Richard Rose. All Rights Reserved. See TAT's web page on Richard Rose books or the video page for DVDs by and about Richard Rose.

The Holy Longing
by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Tell a wise person, or else keep silent,
because the mass man will mock it right away.
I praise what is truly alive,
what longs to be burned to death.

In the calm water of the love-nights,
where you were begotten, where you have begotten,
a strange feeling comes over you,
when you see the silent candle burning.

Now you are no longer caught in the obsession with darkness,
and a desire for higher love-making sweeps you upward.

Distance does not make you falter.
Now, arriving in magic, flying,
and finally, insane for the light,
you are the butterfly and you are gone.
And so long as you haven't experienced this: to die and so to grow,
you are only a troubled guest on the dark earth.

~ Translated from the German by Robert Bly

Number Our Days
Bas reliefs and incised quotes from the
Henry & Arabella Huntington mausoleum, San Marino, CA

The Huntington mausoleum

"Heaven lies about us in our infancy"

Wordsworth, Ode: Intimations of Immortality

Heaven lies about us in our infancy (Wordsworth)

"And every shepherd tells his tale
under the hawthorn in the dale"

Milton, L'Allegro

Every shepherd tells his tale under the hawthorn in the dale (Milton)

"Yet the vineyard's ruby treasures
brighten Autumn's sob'rer time"

Thomas Moore

Yet the vineyard's ruby treasures brighten Autumn's sob'rer time (Moore)

"So teach us to number our days,
that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom"

Psalm 90:12

So teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom (Psalms)

~ The photo of the Huntington mausoleum at the top of the page is from The Medieval Geek site. The bas reliefs were sculpted by John Gregory; photos from 1980-81.

On Commitment
by W.H. Murray

Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves, too.

Scottish Himalayan Expedition, 1951 Scottish Himalayan Expedition, 1951

All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way.

Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it....

~ From The Scottish Himalayan Expedition (1951). This excerpt was included in the October 2002 Forum but deserves an occasional repetition.

Observing Our Afflictions
by Bob Fergeson

"The finite mind cannot perceive the infinite. The finite mind
can become less finite—it can become infinite." —Richard Rose

Some have asked why Richard Rose felt it was necessary to look at traumatic incidents from our past as a starting point for meditation. Why dredge up these unpleasant memories? Why not let a sleeping dog lie, rather than rudely wake him up and face the consequences? These are good questions. They can best be answered from our own experience, if we care to put the advice into practice. Then we can answer the questions ourselves and in the process, perhaps, change our being.

Let's start out by defining our aim; why do we search? Any meditative practice can be defined as a means to this aim. If our aim is to find the Truth, regardless, then we must assume that we don't presently have it, or are at least not aware of it. This admission is the basis for our search and will serve us well.

Most systems of meditation speak of the ego as the main obstacle to enlightenment. The ego can be defined as the sense of individuality, for which there is a survival-program of manic proportions. An individual thing such as the ego is by definition finite. If our quest is to find the infinite and eternal, then being identified with something manifestly finite is obviously a problem. That the finite mind can become infinite may speak to our intuition of the usefulness of reviewing traumatic incidents, if we define these incidents as afflictions to the individuality sense, or ego.


Any time we have suffered emotional trauma at the hands and minds of our fellow man, it amounts to a rebuff. We have been rejected for our behavior, caused by our thinking. If later, after the heat of the event has died down, we look at the thinking pattern that led to the incident, we may see that we were acting from the manic survival program or ego, and not from a universal position of clear thinking. We can then see why we were rebuffed, and thus our thinking is possibly corrected, and becomes less finite. Any thinking that originates from opinion, ambition, fear, or personal emotion is finite in aspect, biased in its being. To become less finite and more universal, our thinking must become less based on personal opinion, and thus becomes less biased in aspect. The rebuffs we get from our fellow man for our finite reactions are red flags that point this out. Of course, if our aim is not one of becoming less finite, but only to survive as an individual ego-animal at all costs, none of this is pertinent.

The main characteristic of the ego is its insistence on being right, no matter the facts. It will even split itself in two, and place the blame for its actions on its offshoot in order to keep itself convinced of its rightness. To examine our self in the light of the facts, and to admit our faults and errors, flies in the face of this ego-aspect and thus tends toward making our being less finite. Here again we see the value in dealing with past traumas caused by biased thinking, for it removes us from identification with our errors as it corrects our thinking.

The ego's insistence on being right regardless stems from its insistence on "knowing." It cannot learn, for this would imply that it does not already know. Thus it cannot question its own actions or thinking, for this would also imply fallibility, something it cannot allow. To clear our thinking from this trap of "knowing," and to become able to receive from a higher power or self by the admission that we do not know, enables us to become still less finite. That which is empty, and thus not full of itself, has a higher being than that which claims to know and therefore cannot receive. An empty glass has possibility.

Only the real part of us can connect with the Real. Only that which is less finite can connect with the Infinite. By questioning our thinking patterns that led us into less than desirable outcomes, we back away from these patterns and become less finite. As an observer, capable of seeing present time experience clearly, and of honest admission of past mistakes, we are much less finite than as a pattern projector bent on recycling whatever doctrines flatter its valued concepts. A clear aware space has infinite capacity, and can receive. An ego, having to defend a set pattern of thinking, has no such capacity, and eventually becomes a cause for pain and misery, if it is allowed to live unchallenged and unquestioned.

Once we can admit when we are wrong, we have allowed something greater to come into our lives. Eventually we may come to see that the Golden Rule and the commandment of loving thy neighbor as thyself are not mere dictates of virtue, but clues to our higher inheritance as Universal Man, if we wish to claim it. If we insist on being full of ourselves, vain and "right," change, which is inevitable, will cause pain and denial in us as we bow at the foot of our god, ego.

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

Commentaries on the Aphorisms
by Franklin Merrell-Wolff

Aphorism 1. Consciousness-without-an-object is.
2. Before objects were, Consciousness-without-an-object is.
3. Though objects seem to exist, Consciousness-without-an-object is....

In their depths, feeling and thought spring from the same root. This root, in its own nature as unmanifested, has a character that appears to the relative consciousness as both devoid of feeling and without conceptual form. But when realized, it has the value of fulfilled feeling and completed thought. Consciousness no longer feels a reaching out for an unattained completeness. With this, both thought and feeling lose their differentiated and, therefore, identifiable particularity. But when the root is projected into the actualizing consciousness, it loses some measure of its purity, since to actualize is to particularize, even though on the most abstract level of expression. The aphorisms on Consciousness-without-an-object constitute such a projection on a level of exceptional abstraction and universality, whereby the unthinkable becomes, in some measure, the thinkable. But since, in this act, the universal comprehender appears in the field of the comprehended, we stand, in the latter case, not in the presence of Truth herself, but we come into possession of a symbol of the Truth.

fused deposition modeling, www.me.berkeley.edu/Grad/Areas/ME_Main_Frame_Manufacturing.htm To step from the symbol to that which is symbolized, though this does afford a peculiarly exacting demand upon acuity of thought, yet requires much more. Here, feeling, in the best sense, must fuse with the thought. Thus the thinker must learn also to feel his thought, so that, in the highest degree, he thinks devotedly. It is not enough to think clearly, if the thinker stands aloof, not giving himself with his thought. The thinker arrives by surrendering himself to Truth, claiming for himself no rights save those that Truth herself bestows upon him. In the final state of perfection, he possesses no longer opinions of his own nor any private preference. Then Truth possesses him, not he, Truth.

He who would become one with the Eternal must first learn to be humble. He must offer, upon the sacrificial altar, the pride of the knower. He must become one who lays no possessive claim to knowledge or wisdom. This is the state of the mystic ignorance—of the emptied heart. He who has thus become as nothing in his own right then is prepared to become possessed by Wisdom herself. The completeness of self-emptying is the precondition to the realization of unutterable Fullness. Thus mere "knowledge about" becomes transformed into Knowledge as Reality.

To know THAT which the aphorisms symbolize is to be possessed by THAT and, then, to be one with THAT. Thenceforth, all thinking, all feeling, all particularization, and all selfhood lie below. To be sure, all these remain, but no longer as claimants to a Throne they could not possibly fill. They remain thenceforth as the actors in the Divine Drama, but no more.

Before the candidate, the ordeal of the mystic death appears as a terror-inspiring apparition. But he who, with stout heart challenging the seeming of ultimate dissolution, enters into the awful and terrible presence, finds only utter Glory. Terror has become beatitude. Only liabilities have been lost as he finds himself, not lost in the Eternal, but become that Eternal Itself. All the dangers of the Way are only ghosts, possessing no power save such as the candidate has himself projected upon them. However, since there is much darkness and fear in the heart of man, there are apparitions of terrible visage. But they have no power of their own and must vanish, helpless before the will of the undaunted candidate.

He who receives the aphorisms as guideposts along the Way will find in them powers to dissipate all apparitions, whether of terror or seduction. The threatening appearance of darkness will be dissipated before him as he journeys along his Path. In the end, the Door to Glory will loom clear before his gaze, and he will know no conflict with terror in any part of the Way. Yet he who does not find himself able to go so far, may yet find in the symbols content for his thought that will illumine that thought. Thought in the light is much better than thought groping in darkness. To think from the base of Light, though it be that that Light is not yet understood, is far better than thought grounded in the darkness of no vision. For upon some base all thought must be grounded if it is to be more than that absolute nescience that leads in darkness from nowhere to nowhere. To have more than such hopeless darkness, he, who is not yet Knowledge, must base himself upon faith, whether it be faith in the Eternal, or in some lesser light. Lacking Knowledge, man must have faith if he would not perish.

~ See Franklin Merrell-Wolff philosophy for the complete set of his aphorisms. The aphorisms, along with additional commentary, originally appeared in Merrell-Wolff's Philosophy of Consciousness Without an Object, which was later combined with his first publication into Experience & Philosophy. Thanks to Doroethy Leonard for permission to reprint this essay.

Poems by Shawn Nevins

I'm spread across this field
like wind among prairie grass.
Somewhere out there, within me,
a child's laughing voice arises,
then leaves.
Grasses sway,
touching one another
again and again.



Fearlessly diving into space,
so confident in the air as home,
can I learn from these instinctual acrobats?

I have instinct, too,
for more than food and safety.

I am homing.
Bending toward honesty,
remembering to pause,
to listen.
Tentatively exploring vast spaces,
moving from fear to soaring.


Would we see light without its shadow,
without its particulate partner
lending it form?
The blind sun sees
none of this;
is all of this.


There is a cool breeze within the heat of day,
as if night were behind you
drawing heat
like days draw the hours,
months the days,
and years draw your life.
This feeling must be
the cool breeze of time
and the relief of knowing
you won't be here forever.


as if 6:30 brings relief,
and for thirty minutes of evening news
I am unquestionably alive.

Time passes slowly in quiet places.
With the tv off,
four dreaded, lonely walls
reveal vague unease
and outright questioning of meaning and purpose
— questions whose answers come only in the quiet.


I see my face in the water
— a reflection —
only I am deep underneath that life.
Somehow looking through
a projected self that exists in the light,
but not in the beautiful, deep depths
of me.

The Disease of Non-Dualism
by Shawn Nevins

Albrecht Durer - Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse As soon as I hear someone utter the words, "I'm a non-dualist," I know they have no idea of what they just said. In fact, I'm beginning to view users of that term with some disdain, though to do so would surely brand me with the error of dualism.

In fact, during a recent discussion, I was accused of dualism. I was trying to paint a picture of my internal experience—of the ebb and flow of the strength of the manifestation of this world and the presence of something Real. "That's dualism!" was shouted out by more than one person. Apparently, I had been unmasked, exposed, and was ready to be drummed out.

Dualism, however, makes it easy to turn the tables.

"What are you," I said, "other than dualism?" Are you not living in this world? Are you not speaking with words, employing a body and brain, existing in a mind that cannot conceive of anything other than this and that, self and not-self? Or are you imagining within that mind, what is perhaps (!) beyond the mind?

Not that my accusers were non-dualists. They did, however, have a box into which they crammed all their conceptions of non-duality, enlightenment, the Absolute, and what-have-you. They, and you, carry around that box and measure what you hear against it, rather than listening with your intuition or heart.

It is better to know nothing that to be bogged down with preconceptions and misconceptions. It is better to be utterly confused than mistakenly confident. It is better to feel you just awoke in a strange room, than that you are going to sleep in your familiar bed.

One last thought to ponder in case you are ever accosted by a non-dualist or find your self drifting in that direction: would a true non-dualist even be visible to us?


[Cartoon showing hitchhiker, standing under sign: "Buckle Up: It's the law!" being ticketed by a policeman for not having his pants belt buckled.]

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