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

April 2006

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

This month's contents:

dewy purple flower  

Defining the Truth, Part II by Richard Rose | Doubt Transports You by al-Ghazali | The Trap of Compensation by Bob Fergeson | Poems by Shawn Nevins | Moody Decisions by Shawn Nevins | An Ecstasy of High Contemplation by John of the Cross | What of Me Will Remain? by Art Ticknor | Our Purpose by Art Ticknor | Humor | Reader Commentary

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Defining the Truth, Part II
by Richard Rose

Summary: As he did in the earlier essay with the same title (see the March 2006 TAT Forum), Richard Rose brilliantly describes the traps that Nature lays for the unwary seeker after Truth, and the counter-measures that must be employed.

THE DRIVE BEHIND ALL SPIRITUAL AND ESOTERIC searching is the fear of death. And that fear itself is not caused by our own deductions or determinations. Like many other beings in the animal kingdom, we are programmed to fear. Pain and the fear of death are preservers of life. But it is a life without quality, if we must be tortured in order to serve out an unexplained sentence, chained in the cave of Plato [i.e., the allegory of the cave, in The Republic].

We do not cause ourselves to fear. All creatures, insects, animals, mice and men are programmed to react with fear. Animals likewise are programmed to desperately try to avoid being killed. We may think that they are merely trying to avoid injury, when they flee from predators, but personal observations will show deeper potentials for animals in the realm of thinking and awareness.

shadow of death Protoplasm itself is programmed to avoid death, or else it would not have been endowed with antibodies for diseases, the ability to heal its wounds and clot the flowing blood. Protoplasm is an example of extremely astute engineering. Which each jackass views as his own possession, even though his own knowledge is incapable of providing self-protection or self-healing. He has to depend upon factors unknown to himself to keep him alive each day.

Man is better endowed than animals. His endowments are discovered by an ever-evolving technology. Yet all of the magnificent technology may only be a distraction for that which might be an even better technology—the work on a science of the beginnings and limits of his consciousness.

Man finds himself (by comparing himself with other animals) to be an extraordinary being. He is also endowed with individual self-esteem, or egotism, to believe that he is also better endowed than most other human beings. And yet he individually knows that he must die, and that no eulogy or funereal elegance will alter the finality of disintegration. Yet, man's reaction to his death, and the death of relatives, is not too different from the reactions of chickens. There is a moment of lamentation, and the chickens go back to picking and clucking.

In the human family, each generation has less time for death, and for the moments of introspection that might occur at the funeral of a relative or friend—introspection which, in turn, might lead the mind to try to solve some of the mystery of life and death.

If we are here on this earth to vegetate and supply bodies for predators alone, then the least that we can do is prevent future births into this meat-grinder. It is time that we should not only pause at funerals for introspection, we should also realize that the sex-act is a willful act, from which much misery is produced. No one can be blamed for being born, and no one should be blamed for the sexual urges with which he is programmed to perpetuate the system that furnishes more candidates for anguish and death.

Now, I have just stated something which will appear foolish to many. For those who think that sex is a wonderful gift from God, or the sole comfort for a drab animal life, let me reply that they should first define God and then examine sex to see how much is gift and how much is a curse.

The statement which might appear foolish is the advice to prevent future birth. There is no doubt that it is unwise to continue to play a losing game. However when these things are stated, a paradox is immediately set up. It is also unwise to try to thwart a game that is fixed, when that game seems to apply to life forms on the massive scale that is found in this earthly greenhouse.

If as seekers, esotericists or metaphysicians we see a pointlessness to life, we also will have seen along the way that life is not haphazard. First we realize that the game is fixed. We cannot identify the agency, but we give a name to the code of the computer that monitors life on the planet. We call it Nature.

This Nature-code will react, and its reaction will not be a bolt of lightning from the sky, nor an earthquake. The rumble will come from the zombie-masses, who will blame their crusade on God. The rumble will also come from the individual's body who tries to outwit the "purpose" by abortions, homosexuality, bestiality or ideosexuality.

We also find that Nature is not designed for an uncontrollable overpopulation or a runting-down from premature pregnancies. Nature controls the herd, but does not encourage the herd to multiply beyond a limited food supply. The automatic neutralization that occurs in clans that cause pregnancies in the young females is manifested in the consequent runting and poverty. The breed tends to extinguish itself. Likewise, overpopulation would ultimately be adverse to any Nature-code that wished to promote the human species.

By observing the existence and habits of nonsexual monastic population-segments down through the centuries, we find that Nature has left a door open for their existence. But this door must be a neutral door ... homosexuality will destroy the monastic sect, but to be sexless (celibate) there will be no blame. Even armies have been slow to attack the monasteries.

The door is the door of neutrality or innocence. In fact Nature may well have the same reaction to armies which destroy innocent monasteries as it does to individuals who attack or impregnate the children. It is my opinion that this door of escape was not created by a compassionate or maternal deity speaking through the Nature-code. I think that it was a result of positive coding in regard to the approval of sexual restraints. This is a paradox of Nature. There are certain penalties for those who resist reproduction, even in a neutral manner, such as in celibacy. The celibates have to cope with prostatitis and cancer in the males, and in the females we may find amenorrhea, and dysfunction of the pituitary gland,—not to mention the migraine headaches that beset both sexes when sexual routines are upset.

But most of these maladies occur only after the sex habits have been in existence for a while. The penalties are delayed for the child and young adolescent. So that if you continue to live as a child, there is found a combination to the door.

Nature definitely leaves a door open for Spiritual direction. The Spiritual quest, however, passes through the door not smoothly, but with great risk. The escapee must be well disciplined, alert and fearless. And he must possess an intuition equal to his courage.

Going back to the paradox which resulted from the statements I made about preventing births for the meat-grinder, and a manifest inability to oppose a game that is apparently fixed, we have now a solution to the paradox.

In that there has been found a door of escape, and in that there may in fact be a Nature-code to protect our detachment from Nature, there is a hint of solution to the paradox. But there is more to this problem of escaping. People generally escape to monasteries or convents. This is good. There is an Ashram or monastery principle which insures for the individual protection, an atmosphere conducive to serious thinking and a clearinghouse for ideas among colleagues. But, on the other hand, we find most monastic centers to be counter-productive. They generally seem to be dominated by dogmatists rather than seekers; they become populated by dharma-bums rather than dynamic pioneers; and they fall into a discipline which is necessary in any institution where large numbers of people must share the same space, but which promotes robotism, passivity and forgetfulness of intended purposes and a loss of personal introspection.

And once more the door seems to close. But there is another method, another way of life. Its description is also paradoxical. (Perhaps the only solution to a paradox is another paradox). The human spiritual quest must become a vector, with all of that human's energy behind that vector. And the shortest distance between aim and objective is supposed to be a straight line. But success in a spiritual venture requires the ability to run between the raindrops, which may appear to be a zigzag course, which may include dynamic feints and matched states of high indifference.

Writers knowledgeable to the difficulties and hazards of a spiritual path have outlined ways or systems which they believed would take a person a certain distance. There is the Way of Service (often called Bhakti Yoga), the Way of the Monk, the Way of the Raj Yogi, and DeRopp adds another, the Way of the Warrior. Some of these "Ways" are well defined, and finely detailed.

I have written a paper about still another Way, which is too detailed and dependent upon all of its details for proper understanding for it to be inserted here. However this new Way evolved from a lifetime of perseverance ending in a final experience.

At this point I do not wish to get too deeply into "Ways" until we carefully cover the stumbling blocks on the path, certain steps which too many seekers falsely identify as being true steps.

We cannot start at the top. If we are hooked on thinking that a spiritual system should be peaceful and serene, we may be disappointed. So I will try to outline some of these directions or pseudo-steps, in the hope that some readers may recognize which steps are comfortable resting places, but are not steps that lift the party to clearer realizations.

Our original question here was: do we react to unanswered questions about death (and life) only through fear? If not how do we react to the fear of death, and how do we react to our knowledge of our own lack of knowledge?

There are some statistics available, at least in regard to mankind's spiritual directions, which are indications of mass beliefs or popular choices. Those statistics would be found in the number of people (in relation to world population) who belong to the Christian, Mohammedan, Tibetan, and Hinduistic religions whose members accept the doctrines of heaven and hell. While we can presume that most of these movements may have employed fear to sell their wares, the merchandisers of those wares would not have been successful if the followers were not motivated by a fear of death, or a fear of post-mortem pitfalls or hazards.

It would be extremely difficult to come up with exact figures of that which people believe. People change their minds. Good Christians, Mohammedans, and Hindus may be drifting toward atheism and agnosticism with the help of Communism. And we cannot be sure of that which the individuals—for instance, those who have been caught in Communistic take-overs—really believe.

To know that which people really believe about subjective matters, it is necessary to talk to people individually. Such a talk cannot be limited to a standardized set of questions. Each individual will have special meanings for words and terms, and may not be sure of that which he really believes, or, may be reluctant to admit that he might have fear as a motive.

And of course we are not interested as much in the motive for believing, as much as we are in the excuses for not acting in face of the knowledge of our lack of well-defined knowledge of that which will happen to us after death.

From my childhood I have been interested in the subject of immortality, and do not doubt that it originated in fear. But I tried to do something about that interest and fear. I began by talking to anyone who showed an interest in religion or esotericism. It was not an easy task. Most professional people recoil when asked about their religious beliefs, or even a simple questioning about their beliefs about life after death.

When I was in the seminary (age twelve to seventeen) I was slapped in the face because my questions indicated that I did not accept that which I should believe. I began to look upon priests as ardent members of a union or gang, who felt threatened at the prospects of having a potential member being a non-believer of the party line.

In later years I went to work in different research laboratories, and questioned some of the scientists with whom I worked. I found that most of them were men with technological skills, and their mental abilities prompted scientific egos. Most of them were agnostics, and they believed that any wisdom about life after death would only come from superior scientists like Einstein, and that other scientists such as biochemists and mathematicians should work for the infinite prolongation of life.

There were several exceptions. A man who was a genius in the heat-transfer work related to the atomic fueling of submarines, was also a sincere Christian Scientist. His name was Kooistra. I have forgotten his first name. I was young at the time, and I found it amazing that a man whom I respected as one of the greater scientific minds, could devote an equal amount of energy to an unproven belief system. Christian Science is called a science, but in the stricter understanding of the word science, the two requirements of predictability and proof are lacking.

I became a sort of gadfly to Kooistra, arguing with him about proofs for the existence of God, and about faith in the light of faith possibly being merely wishful thinking. I had been on a few occasions up to Cleveland, and once had stopped to listen to the street-orators in the public square. A Christian Scientist on a podium (the step before a statue) was being confronted by an agnostic. The agnostic told the speaker that he knew a man who had been a Christian Scientist, had gotten seriously ill, yet had refused to go to a doctor.

"You know what happened," warned the agnostic, "The guy died."

But the Christian Scientist responded, "If your friend wants to think he is dead, let him think he's dead."

At the time, I thought this encounter eloquently indicated the limitations of Christian Science. And of course, I uncharitably used it to test Kooistra's faith ... or patience.

But Kooistra was a very solid person, and a person of great intuition. In fact he invented a procedure which the other scientists scoffed at, saying that it could not work. The procedure involved floating an armature in liquid metal, KNa.

It was this same intuition which prompted the man to see the possibility of mind being superior to flesh, which I believed as possible at that time. I could not prove it then, nor can I prove it now. And I still think that anyone who believes in this mental ability should be very careful of testing the theory in a very serious illness. Perhaps there will come a day when we can replace a limb that is destroyed, or return the dead to life, but not yet.


I have mentioned elsewhere that my life has been a continuous search. The first thirty years were spent in looking for the correct answer, or for the final mental state in which all things would be understood. The remainder of my life I have spent looking for symbols to express my findings, and looking for people as companions on the path ... and for fellow-translators of intuitional language and non-dimensional language into words for four-dimensional minds.

I spent some time with theologians. Long after I left the seminary, I continued to meet with priests and ministers when I found that they showed some genuine sincerity. I have met some clerics that candidly admitted that they were running a business. Others were faithfully producing arguments to maintain the Church-Militant. They do not make good companions on the path.

I gravitated toward metaphysical groups. I think that this group of investigators is in reality a pool of frontiersmen in the search for real answers to phenomena, as well as answers to questions about ultimate essence, and ultimate purposes for us.

Like the theists, I found them to be blocked in their various stages of searching. I think it is of a great value to us in understanding them, and to them in possibly seeing their blocks.

Of course, if they see their blocks, that in itself is not a major accomplishment, if there is not a concurrent discovery of some technique to help them understand other important points of view. Many people rebel against a religion or a parental belief, but down the line they become frozen into an alternate spiritual venture or obsession with a particular adventure into the world of phenomena. The mere fact that one breaks away from that which one considers to be useless, should indicate that the new obsession may later be proven to be only a step, a phase, or even a device unconsciously used by the rebellious mind, to distract that mind from doing any real work.


I recently received a letter from a lady who had read several of my books. She told of years of searching, and years of hardship. I gathered that she recognized the searching as the cause for the hardship. She had set out to find the meaning for her existence. Suffering and hardship resulted. She has now taken the passive path to inner peace and harmony.

The warrior comes back scarred and weary. It does no good to guess now about mistakes made in the battle, or the quality of intelligence used in making decisions. The warrior rests in the shade and is overwhelmed by the seeming peacefulness of nature. In this interlude he may have a spiritual experience ... may in fact be visited by Cosmic Consciousness. In any event, the warrior is experiencing a spiritual plateau, a resting place between two upward battles or periods of growth. The plateau can be recognized by its accompanying bliss. There is no bliss in the final realization. The final realization is the understanding of everything and nothingness. There is no pain nor bliss there, because there is no polarity.

But, how do we talk with this type of person? What is our point in trying to communicate with dissembled minds? Of course our point (for communicating) is the response to the unwritten law, that a person must give in order to get; and another law that you can only help certain people, not everyone; and still another resolution that we are most likely to find people who will understand our language, in some group whose efforts and evolution might be similar to our own. Such a group is often a sangha, or a brotherhood, or an unnamed circle of respected friends.

Generally, with the person addicted to passivity, there is little that can be done or said. If the friend is resting upon a spiritual plateau, nothing should be done. It is not for us to judge the duration of that dwelling on the plateau. Confrontation may drive him into depression, not illumination. We can confront action more safely, because most actions spring from a polarizing purpose, in that our actions generally are reactions to neutralize some other direction.

The person whose real mental state is one of laziness (not recuperation), on the other hand, should be confronted. However, all confrontation should be in the mood of friendship, and not with the attitude of a pedant or critic.

We must always remember that, in this bipolar world, bliss will be best defined by agony. Peace and serenity, which are lesser levels, will be preceded or followed by conflict and trauma. Such transitions are difficult to predict. When the daylight is upon us we can easily predict the night ... but for a person who stands alternately in light and darkness, it is extremely difficult to predict a day that never ends.


It is a waste of time to argue with instinctive people. The instinctive person reacts with anger at the prospects of being a victim without an ability to fight back. He usually believes in oblivion after death. He is totally digested by his predator. He is eaten by the lion which should have been his slave.

lion The emotional person babbles about love. In some cases he wishes to make love (have intercourse) with his cause (which he humanizes). He (or she) has a unique approach to the lion or spiritual predator. He makes love to it. And the lion eats his head off first, because the head criticizes the heart.

We should be patient with people whose admonitions for love follow on the heels of suffering from a past habit of hate. On the other hand, there are fundamentalists in many religions who believe that their love for their prophet, saviour or guru justifies murder for that personage or cause. Here the lion becomes flesh, often disguised as a lamb.

We have a tide of people running about the earth preaching social love. The politicians have conveniently taken up the cry and encourage little organizations to spring up by the hundreds to the point that they have become a pestilence. We have "big brothers" and "big sisters," street patrols called "Angels," Mad mothers, Hotline volunteers, Hug-your-neighbor sessions. Save the Indians movement. Save endangered predators. Volunteers to pester the elderly. Brotherhood-ostriches with their heads in the sands of a vicious environment.

Beware of people crusading for love. Some of them are politicians and prelates trying to create a zeitgeist of their own to further their own games. A large segment of the population are at work softening up the larger segment for purposes of domination.


Most logic is vanity. However, we must approach problems in a sensible manner. In spiritual or esoteric fields, logic finds loose footing, whether it be used to qualify beliefs, conceptions or projections.

Logic requires a point of reference. In esoteric philosophy even if our point of reference is the planet earth, that point becomes unstable in the face of inter-galactic comparisons, but becomes even more unstable when we observe it in regard to its ultimate reality in relation to the subtle dimensions of the mind or spirit.

Some physicists are leaping ahead of the mystics, in promoting the concept of the Hologram-Mind. In this theory, the human mind may be a tiny sensor in a formidable brain or mind, in which all of the universe is contained ... possibly as visions.

I do not know how many mathematical formulae they have employed to give body to this concept, but it certainly says little more than the Indians advised for over a thousand years. To the Indian mystic all that we view with our limited senses is Maya, and the theory is expressed in other terms by some Spiritualists who speak of a mental plane which is superior to this dimension.

When the persistent searcher reaches a state, or a state of mind, which is known as Sahaja Nirvikalpa Samadhi, he views the concept of the Hologram-Mind as being a concept that comes close to the experiences of Yogis in the final Samadhi. Yet, no amount of formulation or logic will express the true nature of that region which makes this region look like a nightmare.

I have said elsewhere that our logical system employs the wrong point of reference when it attempts to deal with the inner-spatial phenomena. The mind should be the point of reference. And of course that point of reference will be a moving faculty, depending upon the angle of its view or observation. If the mind looks at this dimension it will see the brain. If it looks within itself, it will see or become an infinite frontier.

Let us take a look now at another type of mind. This is the intuitive mind. The intuitive man is the new pioneer. Where the former man was conceptual (fabricating) and gestaltic, the new man, intuitively perfected, will view the memory of man at a glance, and from that storehouse of countless factors or memories will instantly know and experience everything. The monumental task will be that of individuation ... bringing to non-intuitive minds with temporal words the knowledge of timelessness, and mental totality. How does the ocean explain to a falling raindrop that the latter will lose its apparent shape, but never its form, or being.

The intuitive man sees the need for using every tool available to the mind of man to discover the purpose of man's life and possibly, all life. In the beginning he is not so vain as to presume to answer as to the reasons for the existence of everything. He knows he will be lucky if he can understand the purpose of his own life and the limits of that life.

He sees the need for emotional behavior toward his fellowman, because the assault upon total ignorance requires maximum help. He must have fellow-technicians, an association of observers and experimenters, if need be. His friendship for his fellow-seeker cannot be a pretence. He equates their survival with his own.

The intuitive man cannot be placid or passive. His passivity dares not extend beyond being honest and humble about his ignorance, about his physical disintegration, and his present helplessness. This honesty should not automatically accept helplessness.

He must use his own instinctive pool of physical power for energy and determination to fight back against annihilation, against fatigue, mental and physical.

He must use all the energies of his body to the fullest capacity.

He must use anger against procrastination and rationalization, against dalliance or failure ... against any entity, human or noumenal.

If need be, his body must become a laboratory wherein might be found forces to improve his abstract calculations—or intuitions.

Intuition must be his modus operandi.

~ First published in the TAT Journal No. 14. © 1986 by Richard Rose. All rights reserved. Reprinted by permission of Rose Publications. See the TAT Journal Archive page.

Doubt Transports You
by Abu Hamid al-Ghazali (1058 - 1111)

11th Century Sufi, al-Ghazali 11th Century Sufi, al-Ghazali

Therefore, there is no salvation except in independence of thought. As the Poet has said:

Forget all you've heard and clutch what you see
At sunrise what use is Saturn to thee?

If writing these words yields no other outcome save to make you doubt your inherited beliefs, compelling you to inquire, then it was worth it—leave alone profiting you.

Doubt transports you to the truth. Who does not doubt fails to inquire. Who does not inquire fails to gain insight. Without insight, you remain blind and perplexed.

The Trap of Compensation
by Bob Fergeson

"Every child is seduced into taking part in our game of life. He loses direct-mind
ability when he identifies with and participates in this dimension, and tries to
manipulate it for his own petulant form of counter-seduction." —Richard Rose

Many are the traps of the mind, and many are the tricks it plays on us. Being dual in nature, we are kept running from one experience or mood to another, all the while thinking that the solution is just up ahead, that if we could just get the mix right, we could finally keep all aspects of our lives under control and finally secure our peace and happiness. But mind, being a two-faced dimension, will never be at peace, at least not for long. One of the basic traps of this thing called mind is that of compensation. We compensate, or balance, one aspect of our lives with another, in the vain hope the house of cards will not collapse and leave us face to face with the truth about ourselves.

muscipula 'cup trap' - J Matteson, humboldt.edu The trap of compensation, like most things, is most easily seen in our fellows and hardest seen in ourselves. It's easy to see how others struggle to keep their desires and fears in check, their daily battle to balance the spending with the earning, the work with rest. Safe in our own imagination, we may think they are a bit foolish when they blunder and stumble, lacking the perfection our own ego ascribes to itself. We are too busy buying the rationalizations and excuses we keep at the ready for why we would actualize this perfection, if only life had given us better cards. This feeling of superiority, a form of pride, is simply compensation operating in ourselves. We cannot accept that we are in the same boat as our hapless neighbor, or that his excuses are as valid as ours. Thus, we have to compensate for the tragedy we see before us by telling ourselves how we are above it, superior in either action or rationale.

The base compensation we are all tied to is the game of pride and fear. We have a fear, that of death, which we must keep unconscious. If it were to ride too close to the surface, we would be paralyzed and could not go about our daily business in the illusion of society. This fear of death is a built-in program designed to keep us from self-destruction in one sense, but in another, it serves as a hindrance to self-discovery. We cannot question it, for that would mean facing the unknown, or at least admitting there is such a thing, waiting behind us, terrible, death to the ego's belief in itself. In order to keep moving and participate in the game of life, this fear must be kept at bay, or compensated for. This is accomplished by the mechanism of pride. We believe we are special; whether in a positive or negative sense, it makes no difference. This superior attitude gets us out of bed every day and out into the fray, believing we are something that matters. We go out to do the "right thing" and thus keep the fear safely under the mat.

The great psychologist G.I. Gurdjieff taught that we have mechanisms in the mind called "buffers." Their function is to keep the different parts of us from ever meeting, thus assuring that we never get the kind of view of ourselves that we get of our neighbor. This helps us function by keeping us in the dark about what we're really like. We can persuade ourselves that we are good, right, doing our best, etc., while never having to let the facts rock the boat. Gurdjieff said that if a man's buffers were removed, he would go mad. He could not stand to see his true nature, with its contradictions and compensations. Pride serves the purpose of a buffer by not letting us get a clear look at our fear. We can cruise through life without hesitation or question, believing in what we have been taught, doing our best, and never doubting our self-image as the long-suffering saint, martyr and good guy, the victim and helpless innocent. One thing pride or fear will never allow us is to truly doubt. The great questions of our own existence and being are kept shut out.

To find the truth about ourselves, and life and death, we must face our pride and find our fear. This fear is close to the root of our problem, which is that of misidentification. We have been tricked into thinking we are an object, that we exist, a person who lives and dies. As an object, we are thus in a world of objects, and must defend ourselves. We cannot admit death, the great taboo, for that would leave us squarely in the unknown, the thing we fear the most. But until we face this fear, we will never be rid of it and never be free of the mind-numbing pride that compensates it.

The grand trick, the lie beneath the fear, is that we are a thing. That we are separate, a body/mind amongst hostile other bodies, vying for a limited pile of goodies and security. As soon as we bought into this illusion, we became liable for the entire package of fear and pride, life and death. We then can no longer face this trade-off, that we have sold our infinite non-existent existence, so to speak, for an ego/body in a world of strife. We must keep looking away, taking pride in our plans and excuses, for to remember the truth is too terrible.

Misidentification causes fear, which causes pride, which leads us ever farther from our Home. We compensate for our lost inheritance by taking pride in our new-found "life," holding the fear of the truth as far back as possible until the house of cards collapses, and if we are lucky, we get a glimpse of the game.

How can we find our way out? How can we return to Truth, without relying on accident or belief? Gurdjieff called the first step on the road home, self-remembering. To remember your Self. We start by observing ourselves, by questioning, to see what tricks and compensations we use to avoid looking at the facts of our situation. We begin to see that maybe we are not what we have been telling ourselves. We see that our neighbors having a rough time of it is not a cause for celebration but an opportunity to see the same in ourselves. We can face ourselves and laugh, knowing that though we may not yet have the ultimate answer, we can begin looking. We see that the game is mostly fixed, so why be afraid? Taking ourselves too seriously hasn't worked in the past; it only fostered our pride and thus our self-ignorance. We take a step within, seeing ourselves a bit more as we really are, and find it helps. We hear from others who have gone beyond fear and pride that everything is OK, and take heart. We try the tricks they teach us, and perhaps once again glimpse our infinite nature. We lose ourselves, and gain the universe.

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

Poems by Shawn Nevins


Another man walks in my shoes,
and another,
and another.
Like the breeze
that spans the single moments
of every white umbel
of Queen Anne's lace
flowering in this field.
Every where, every thing
soaked with life.
All the same,
again and again.


The grasses tell me of time—
we are long into summer.
I couldn't say.
I am caught by the unchanging.
I hear it with my eyes
because no one sense will hold
the rolling cicada song,
the sway of the mind
a sea of green churning under summer's pull,
the humid, heavy air,
and rain that pretends to bring relief.

Pretending is ever disappointing.
The grasses lie.
We are deep within summer,
deep within every season.


I am two things,
and another.

a wraith,
a king aware of his empty cup.
A hopeless urge to endure,
aware of its flame and dying light.

The second,
destiny as free as dream.
A painter and painting,
canvas and paints.

The other,
that waits
without this man,
without this life.
An emptiness
so beautiful
even without a witness to beauty.


The common man calls death
the worm in the apple.
Even that worm possesses atoms;
among those atoms—
and in that space—


It is a matter of mistakes:
A man and woman
sitting across a table
thinking, hoping
that somehow
flesh will bridge this gap,
this gulf
between two shells.
Hard shells, convoluted and worn,
yet with the same whispered calling inside.

Moody Decisions
by Shawn Nevins

While reading the works of the psychologist Albert Ellis, who has spent the last 50-plus years developing his Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy, I was struck by the number of "maybe, sometimes, most probably, likely, possibly" statements in his work. The more he's worked to improve his therapy, the more he's realized you can't make definite statements when it comes to giving advice to people.

With that in mind, here is some advice that worked for me and may work for you, if you approach it scientifically—experiment, observe and record the results, repeat and refine your experiment. Put your mind and effort into the advice and mold it to you.

angry mood Never make a decision when you are in a mood. By "mood," I mean the term as is commonly used in expressions such as "I'm in a mood," or "he's feeling moody." A person in a mood has a negative view on practically everything. Richard Rose described it as a clouded glass. Such clouded states of perception may linger for hours or days.

I don't know when I decided to never make a decision in a mood, but it is a guideline that served me well. It kept me from abandoning commitments; from taking actions that would lead to a change in priorities. I'm not referring to everyday decisions like what toppings to get on your pizza. I mean decisions involving commitments: major courses of action and expenditures of energy.

Of course, you must have a level of awareness about your self in order to recognize a mood, in order to remember where you were (mentally) and where you are now. Also, you must find the faith that your mood will return to its typical state—which it will, but don't take my word, observe your self in action.

What do you do while waiting? Keep your present commitments as best as you can. Procrastinate important decisions until the mood lifts. I found it better to tread water than to start swimming in the direction a mood sent me. For advice on shortening moods, see the essay Taking a Break.

Not all moods are negative. Sometimes it seems we are full of power and potential and our excitement in beginning a new undertaking can barely be contained. As for making decisions in these positive moods, you need to figure that out for yourself. I was never one to get fired up and inspired for more than a few minutes, so there was little chance of me making commitments in that short span of time. A little self-honesty will reveal whether or not you are a victim of your positive moods.

Not that you don't work when inspired. If you find yourself committing to projects in moods of inspiration, and then dropping them, one of two things is happening: either you are lazy, or you are making unrealistic commitments. You be the judge, or if you can't, then ask an honest friend.

If you find your negative mood stretching into weeks or months, then "possibly" you are no longer in a mood and the advice in this essay will not apply. You may be the victim of depression or a change in state of mind, calling for another course of action. Hopefully, that will be the topic of a future essay.

Nine Verses Made upon an
Ecstasy of High Contemplation
by St. John of the Cross (1542-1591)

I entered in, not knowing where,
And there remained uncomprehending,
All knowledge transcending.

I entered—where—I did not know,
Yet when I found that I was there,
Though where I was I did not know,
Profound and subtle things I learned;
Nor can I say what I discerned,
For I remained uncomprehending,
All knowledge transcending.

Of peace and holy truth
It was knowledge to perfection,
Within the depths of solitude
The narrow path of wisdom;
A secret so profoundly hidden
That I was left there stammering,
All knowledge transcending.

I was so caught up and rapt away,
In such oblivion immersed,
That every sense and feeling lay
Of sense and feeling dispossesed;
And so my mind and soul were blessed
To understand not understanding,
All knowledge transcending.

The one who truly reaches there
No longer in himself remains,
And all that he had known at first
Seems base and mean to him, and wanes;
So great a knowledge then he gains
That he is left uncomprehending,
All knowledge transcending.

His understanding is the less endowed—
The more he climbs to greater heights—
To understand the shadowed cloud
Which there illuminates the night;
Thus he who comprehends his sight
Will alway stay not understanding,
All knowledge transcending.

This knowledge through uncomprehending
Is of such supreme dominion
That by learned men contending
It is never grasped or won;
Their learning never lights upon
The knowledge of unknowing,
Beyond all knowledge going.

And that exalted wisdom
Is of such a high degree,
It can be undertaken
By no art or faculty;
Who knows the way to mastery
By a knowledge that unknows
Transcending ever goes.

And if you wish to hear,
This highest knowledge is conceived
In a sense, sublime and clear
Of the essence of the Deity;
It is an act of His great Clemency
That keeps us there uncomprehending,
All knowledge transcending.

~ Translated by Gerald Brenan. The original Spanish and several English translations appear in the Theosophical Publishing House Twilight Archive.

What of Me Will Remain?
by Art Ticknor

"What of me won't remain when I die—and what of me, if anything, will?"

I don't doubt that if you could hold that line of thinking in focus, it would do the trick. You would transcend life and death.

An ancient Zenist phrased the above question as: "What is your original face?" Douglas Harding couches his experiments in terms of seeing what it is we're looking out of.

casket The answer—your original face—is that which is here before you (or Adam, or the cosmos) were born. Not in the words, but in the finding.

The answer is also that which is self-aware: meaning no subject/object split: meaning no subject.

In my experience, you can glimpse what that is while still identified with the subject-object dimension, the mind. But the glimpse is a shadow of the reality. How then can we comprehend the incomprehensible?

Alfred Pulyan pointed out that "nothing of you remains" when the body dies. That seems to indicate that the lights go out, nothingness prevails, and you're done. If that's the case, then the only meaningful philosophy would be a utilitarian one of optimizing the pleasure-pain mix, or a hedonistic variation such as "eat, drink and be merry" (for tomorrow we die). Fortunately, that's not the case. Nothing of what you think you are remains.

Objection: "I don't see that approach as a concrete way of facing mortality, and I think that efforts to try to isolate what would remain after death would be futile because they'd be based on conjecture unless I actually died."

Agreed, thinking about it isn't going to provide a satisfactory conclusion. What is it that we know the least about? The self. In fact, all that can be observed (known) by the mind (knower) is not-self. To isolate what of us might remain after death, we can eliminate anything that can be observed. We can observe the body and, moving inward, we can observe thoughts, feelings, and mental processes. What we run up against is the seemingly impossible task of observing the observer.

When we get frustrated with trying to know the knower, we may opt for a clever out and decide that what we really are is our consciousness. We're awake, and we know we're awake. The problem is that our consciousness doesn't even last through our daily cycle. It comes into existence when we awake, or when we dream, and goes out of existence between those states.

But what may happen, if we continue to to try to know ourselves in the face of seeming impossibility, is a glitch in the matrix, a lapse in the space-time continuum, a burning out of a resistance circuit—which frees our identity with the mind and provides the mind with a conscious connection to its unbounded source.

Our Purpose
by Art Ticknor

apple blossoms Like the buds on an apple tree, we are parts of something bigger than ourselves. And our purpose is part of a larger purpose.

The apple tree plays its role in the cosmic symphony, interwoven in an intricate network of mutual existence. The buds are designed to flower, out of which come fruit and seeds to continue the cycle of the apple tree and its cosmos. That is their ultimate purpose.

The fact that we are created to believe that we are separate from That which created us and with a yearning to return to that Home provides us with a clue to our ultimate purpose. The buds on the human tree have the potential to blossom, to become aware of That which created them and to realize their essential identity with That. Then those flowers produce seeds of continuance whose purpose is to "feed My lambs ... feed My sheep."


dog and malfunctioning fire hydrant

Have you ever had one of those days when nothing went right!?

Reader Commentary ...

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