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

November 2006

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

This month's contents:

Farm in Provence by Van Gogh

Working with a Group by Bob Fergeson | Concerning the Spontaneity of the Self by Franklin Merrell-Wolff | Poems by Shawn Nevins | The Account of an Awakening by William Samuel | The Cosmic Egg & the Sense of Self by Art Ticknor | Humor

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Working with a Group
by Bob Fergeson

In many esoteric teachings, there are said to be three avenues of work on the Path: working on oneself, working with others, and working for the Work itself. Let's take a look at working with others, and the ways this can be accomplished.

The traditional form of working together has been the group, a brotherhood of like-minded people who strive towards a common goal. This is found in many walks of life, not just in spiritual pursuits. But in matters such as finding the true meaning of life and death, friends become truly valuable. Traveling in a group of fellow seekers offers friendship, protection, and speeds our progress. While it is alone we must face our truth, by working with others we become part of a ladder, each one helping another to move higher.

Let's look at three ways groups can work:

First, we have the group as a brotherhood, a group of friends by which we can see the many vagaries of human behavior, in ourselves as well as them. This could be likened to a mirror, in which we see ourselves through the group's reactions to our own personality. It can also be of value in that we have trusted peers whom we can use for advice and constructive criticism when we can't see our way. Sometimes the efforts of our teacher are better understood, too, when we are in a group and see the struggles of our fellow students as well as our own.

Surround yourself with fellow seekers: There is tremendous benefit to associating with like-minded people. Better yet is sharing an apartment or house with a group of seekers. It is a resource of ideas and inspiration, as well as help with the everyday problems of life. You will learn from each other's successes and failures. When one member is in despair, his fellows can in a sense, carry him until he recovers. —Shawn Nevins

Second, we can use the group as a source of what might be called positive tension, or confrontation. This method of friendly questioning is used in a group meeting format to bring us to a greater understanding of our own mind. Through our efforts at self-inquiry and observation, we may begin to question our patterns of thinking, and in the group sessions use the added tension and differing view points to further our awareness of ourselves.

working together The meetings are a mix of discussion and questioning with the overall aim of understanding ourselves and our minds better. Meetings begin with an open discussion of the topic for the week which serves as a catalyst for self inquiry. After the initial discussion the meeting moves toward questioning one another. This often takes place in a conversational format, and the point of the questioning is to help each person retreat from untruth in themselves - to see where their own thinking might be clouded by desires or fears, where they might be rationalizing or if they might have unchallenged assumptions and convictions. The meeting is not intended for people who want to get together and idly talk about philosophy as an exercise and demonstration of their intellect. Meetings embody the spirit of friendship and are for people who want to take an honest look at themselves and confront the questions that are bothering them and who have a suspicion that the answers lay within. Many people who participate in this process over time will find that their thinking becomes clearer and that they understand themselves and others better. —Jeff Crilley on confrontation, from his site firstknowthyself.org

A third way is to use the group as a way of becoming a vector, a seeker headed in a sure direction, helping those below them on the ladder of the path, as well as those brothers on the same rung. We become someone who helps, and learns the best way to help. We reach out beyond our own self-centered cares, and think of others: how can we help our fellow to overcome the blocks to his self-knowledge which he may be blind to, yet are clearer to us? We rejoice when someone in the group has a breakthrough, and lend a hand to the one who has slipped. This could be likened to a return to a more innocent life. We become less dependent on our ego, and better able to reach out.

Realize that you want to help others: The ego prevents us from reaching out to others. With persistent self-analysis, you will come to have true consideration for your fellow man—you will see your flaws in others and others' flaws in you. There is the thought that we should help others because it will help us in the long run, but this is not the same as truly wanting to help another. It is a milestone when we want to help simply because it is the natural reaction. —Shawn Nevins

We have all been living our lives from an emotion or feeling based pattern of thought, or state of mind, from which we rarely awaken. In the brief moments of inspiration and intuition, we may catch a glimpse of this, and decide to look deeper. We may be lucky enough to find a group in which we can work. When we join up with such a group and begin working to awaken from this inherited sleep or hypnosis of life, we also see the endless varieties of sleep holding sway over our fellows. From this, we see more and more of the traps that hold sway over us, and through working with these fellows, gain greater courage and conviction in our quest.

You have to get into the place where the material is, with people who know something. You have to join some sort of human relationship, to work with some group if possible, so that you will be reminded to go back when you slip and forget. Reminded to keep digging, keep meditating, or keep some sort of action going that will keep your head on the problem. —Richard Rose

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

Concerning the Spontaneity of the Self
by Franklin Merrell-Wolff

As the lower cannot command the Higher, the individual ego is not lord over the Universal SELF. Hence, from the individual standpoint, the Realization is spontaneous and thus is often called an act of Grace. The SELF, which it must be remembered is Identical with Divinity, does not stand within the causal sequence. Consequently, strictly considered, Realization of the SELF is never an effect of causes set up by the individual man acting in space and time. The latter through his effort prepares the candle, as it were, but the Flame is lighted through a spontaneous act of Spirit. But here is where Love enters in the highest sense, and Love is not constrained by the causal law which governs within space and time. Yet Love never fails the beloved. This Love excludes none, for—

I, Spirit, deny none of My children.
Such is not My Nature.
Ever waiting, above forgiveness,
I pour Myself in through the opened doors.

Great Space center, Lone Pine, CA

Practically, the spontaneity of the SELF works through Man to man, though it cannot be said that It manifests in no other way. In the Gita, Krishna says: "I am in all men, but not all men are in ME." The implied meaning is, "Some men are in ME," i.e., Those who attained the Realization. Such Men are the Divine Presence Itself. Thus the Guru, if He is in fact a Guru in the true spiritual sense, is Divinity. Such a Man can light the Flame. The aspirant should seek his Guru in his inner consciousness and turn to Him as to Divinity Itself.

Our thanks to Doroethy Leonard for permission to reprint this excerpt from Experience & Philosophy. See the Franklin Merrell-Wolff Fellowship site for more information on Merrell-Wolff's teaching and the ongoing work of the Fellowship. The photo above is a view of the Sierra Nevadas from the Lone Pine, California home of Merrell-Wolff.

Poems by Shawn Nevins

What am I?
A wide bend in the river,
a line of mist,
the first bird song of the morning;
clear, brilliant light
reflected thereon.


There are no words for utter contentment,
and no words for what we are,
so you are left with these thoughts
by the banks of a river
once again swept clean of my self.



The entire human race
could wade into this river
and it would not rise an inch.
How so?


Winter's wreckage lies strewn about the woods
leaving you to guess the pattern
in this jumble of limbs and leaves.
Last year's aster remains upright, sentinel,
as if saying, "All is well."
All is well.


Her hair was spun of spider's web,
drifting in the breeze,
destined or determined
(I know not which)
to reach anyplace but here.


In the diffused, muslin light of dream,
buried within the night,
I find my self attending another burial;
arranging the shroud of my long-dead father.

I am in a silent theater
whose edges fade into the unknown.
A baseless creation
save for the moment my hand
brushes against my father's coarse, wavy hair.
This is as real as the last day I touched him,
as real as hands and fathers,
flesh and hair,
dreams and the night that made them.

The Melody of the Woodcutter and the King
An Account Of An Awakening
by William Samuel (1924-1996)

Note to the reader:

William Samuel William Samuel

Many hymns, chants prayers and mantras have come down to us through the centuries. We know that certain of them contain an especial and mysterious authority when read aloud. Behind their words, beyond their words—indeed, being their words—lies a Message understood by the Heart alone, simply awaiting our conscious recognition.

THE MELODY OF THE WOODCUTTER AND THE KING is a rhythmic, alliterative mantra of awakening. The significance of its message can lift the laden, world weary seeker of Truth from a distorted sense of the world and himself into a new universe of Peace, All-rightness and childlike Joy unending!

Reader, you may prove this for yourself immediately. For just a time, sit easy like a child and listen to the melody and changing rhythm of this short and simple story. With a tender touch—and without struggling to understand every meaning—read THE MELODY OF THE WOODCUTTER AND THE KING to yourself aloud. The Heart of you, the Child of you, the Real of you will understand whatever the intellect does not.

Do not be surprised at the expansion of Awareness, Joy and dominion that are certain to follow soon in your experience.

~ William Samuel (Woodsong, 1976)


      There is a story to tell
      but I am the only one here to tell it
      and the only one to listen.
      There is a picture to paint
      but I am the only one here
      with canvas and oil,
      the only one who will see it.
      There is a symphony to play
      yet there is only one here
      to draw the bow.
      This one, the Alone One,
      is the only one here to listen.
      This is as it should be, however,
      for it allows the picture to be painted,
      the symphony sounded
      and the story told as it truly is.
      Then, if there seems an angry word
      in the telling,
      my Listening will never hear it.
      If there seems a distorted scene,
      The Seeing I am will understand it,
      because one alone is here to listen
      to the symphony on this page.
      This one, the Only One,
      Understands His melody!


Atop my Holy Mountain, I looked up and out;
scepter in hand, I looked roundabout
and beheld a magnificent land, a happy land,
a finished land of harmony.

Thought I,
      This land is my Kingdom
      and I am the King thereof.
      In it I reign.
      In it I command and it is done.
      In it I decree with absolute authority
      and illusion yields itself to me,
      rendering reports of majesty and harmony,
      of tender beauty and simplicity.

Then I looked down, unseen.

At the forest's edge
a woodcutter stood chopping with his axe.
stroke after stroke he fought the forest
and his axe glistened in the sun.

      Father, how long must I labor?
I heard him shout.
      How long must I contend?
      How long before I see Thee face to face,
      before I put aside this axe
      and take Thy scepter in its place?
      How long before I see your abundance,
      free to feast forever?
Then the woodman fell to his knees to rest.
Clutching the axe, he whispered,
      Father, show me what to do!
      Show me how to stop this struggle
      and still the fear within!
      Show me how to quench the come and go,
      the ebb and flow between serenity and sadness.
      Show me love again, and laughter.
      Let the discord cease
      that I may feel Peace.
      Father, there is no worth in me!
      Show me Thyself. Show me Thee!

Oh! Those words of agony I had heard before.
The woodcutter's anguish
Had been my own song of yore.
Yea, this man is my Son.
I have found the Prince!
Let me greet him; let me comfort him.
Let me quench his thirst
and take away his axe.
Let me remind him of his dominion
and show him the land of his heritage.
This is my Son in whom in am will pleased.
It is my joy to give him the Kingdom!

From out the brightness of the morning sun
I spoke to him.

      I know thee who thou art.
      I am the one you asked for.

And he knew me as I knew him.
Division was discarded
We were one again!

      Put away your axe,
I told him.
      Rest beneath the tree.
      Listen to the soft sound
      That only comes from me.

      Once I cut wood as you, dear Son.
      My hands were calloused too—
      torn by tribulation and toil,
      insufficiency and strife;
      but that was long ago as time goes,
      long, long ago.
      Now I see a universe
      too beautiful to hurt
      and much too lovely to labor.
      Now I see a land
      filled with love and laughter.
      Now I see children
      smiling in the sunshine,
      laughing in the Light,
      because the Kingdom I speak of
      is a land without hunger,
      without labor and without strife.
      It is a land where no one cries,
      where fear is merely foolish fantasy
      and where the shadow of death is swept aside
      by the Light of understanding.
      This land is my land.
      I am the King thereof.
      In it I reign
      and illusion's reign is ended!

      Now that I have found you,
      dear heir to my throne,
      let me show you this Kingdom
      which is your Kingdom too
      so you may reign as I.

I persuaded.
      There is no cause to be weary
      And heavy laden forever.
      The Heaven I speak of is not far away
      But close at hand;
      You merely perceive it not.
      The way there is a sweet way
      without bramble or stumbling block
      and there is no devil's army
      to contend with along the way
      nor a single night
      to dwell in the wilderness.

      Beloved, for only a little while
      shall we remember this measured moment
      that has a phantom felling oaks,
      knowing nothing of Identity.

Slowly the woodman lifted himself from the earth
And we walked thenceforth together.
Down a narrow pathway strewn with flowers
We walked arm in arm.

At length he asked me,
      What do you mean when you say
      that your story is my story too?

Reader, listen to the song I sing in answer, for soon you will sound the
same symphony to yourself, even as NOW I sing this measure to Myself alone.


      Once I cut wood with a borrowed axe
      and cleared my kindling from leased acres too.
      For me, just as you,
      each day was another sashay to battle,
      another wonder what good or evil
      would appear before the sunset.
      and, just as you, my woodman,
      I could not comfort the weary
      for echoing their agony.

      Oh, there were brief moments of respite
      in meditation's frightened fortress,
      but I could not SEE the joy
      that was 'round about
      and the warm tears that love shed
      too often turned bitter.

      In the moments of greatest agony
      A wise man came
      From the darkest depths of the forest
      to tell me things of comfort.
      He came with an ointment for my blisters,
      a sharpening stone for my axe;
      and while he was with me
      I put the blade aside
      to hear him tell of good and evil,
      of life and death,
      of the Messiah, mankind and rest.
      Yes, we dreamt dreams together
      in the soft, sweet shade of the oak
      but when he left—when he left—
      I lifted the axe again.
      The borrowed blade had been lighter
      much too short a time.

      Then another wise one came to me
      just as he came to you.
      He taught that the world is an illusion,
      a dreamer's dream of mortality.
            "You are sleeping,"
      said he,
            "dreaming all the agony."
            "Then, if this is a dream,"
      I answered,
            "awaken me!
            "My children must eat, dream or not.
            I know no other way to feed them;
            I can find no easier lot."
      But he could not awaken me
      and I felled another tree.

      Finally a third sage came,
      trying to teach that God
      is one's source of supply.
            "Throw away your axe,"
      said he.
            "Just Be. Just Be!"
      But my children were hungry when he left too
      and I cut another tree.

      Oh, weary son,
      so many came with so much to say
      that I asked as you did too,
            how do I know whom to listen to
            and whom to follow?
            Which is the Way to go?
            Which is the way to walk?
            First one comes, then another—
            a third and a fourth and a fifth,
            arguing among themselves,
            pointing out their own inaccuracies.
            Whom must I follow now, Father?
            Tell me in my heat
            so I will understand."

      But there was only silence
      and in anguish I cried,
            "Father, show me Thyself,
            that I might know myself and who I am.
            Reveal Thyself
            such that I may see beyond this mist—
            this miserable mist—
            to touch Thee.
            You see, I seek to SEE the pure Principle
            And perfect Law that pervades
            This atmosphere of consciousness:
            Yet the seeking brings peace
            only with an ebb and flow
            like seasons that blow
            through oaks still standing to be cut."

      Yea, my son,
      the countless systems of the sages
      merely lightened the load a moment.
      Every cordon of kindling collected
      cried the need for another, another
      and still another.
      Finally, just as you,
      This simplest prayer I cried,
            "It is Peace I ask for, Father:
            Perfection I long to see.
            Yet, what I ask for must be
            the self-same One that You are
            in the action of being Me.
            Could that distortion, the misery,
            be a sharpening goad,
            hastening the recognition
            of my honest identity?
            Oh, Holy Consciousness,
            come to me—but more tenderly!
            Lift the veil that hides Thee from me.
            It is my own veil,
            a vile veil I have woven myself."

      Then, it was, beloved. Then it was!
      Face to face my Father appeared to me,
      Exactly as I to you!
      face to face the Comforter stood before me
      just as I stand before you now!

      Tell me,
the woodman implored.
      Tell me of that time!


I answered the woodman,
      It was in the morning, in the Spring
      in the month of planting with birds awing
      when the newness of everything
      is but an instant away.
      I had bent myself down to drink from a pond,
      and there, reflected in the water he was—
      in my own image and likeness he was—
      and nowhere could I see the old self at all
      or needed to, or wanted to.

      From out the morning Light
      the Messiah came to me,
      softly, quietly,
      with the tender touch of love.
      Oh Grand Light of Truth
      That shone 'round about!
      Splendor beyond words!
      Warmth, wonder,
      Sweet sounds bathed in gossamer beams
      From an expanded Heaven
      That included me and mine
      and all things exactly as they are;
      the immaculately conceived
      now effortlessly perceived;
      incommunicable language of gentle words
      intimate symphony without sound;
      Light of Love
      wherein no darkness dwells!
      Questions no longer; instead,
      a simple basking in the soft New Sound
      of the Now that All is.
      The has-been and shall-be
      were seen for what they are.

      Then, even as I to you,
      my Father said to me,
            "I am He whom thou hath asked for,
            the One you long to see.
            Thy Father-I-am is the I that I am
            and I show Myself to thee
            face to face-eternally!"
      I knew Him too, just as you knew Me


      My son,
I said to the woodman,
      there is a mountain in my kingdom
      from which the universe
      may be surveyed as it really is.
      I will take you there
      as my Father has taken me before.
      From the high place
      the gates of the Heart are flung open,
      the scales drop from the eyes,
      the land is seen in its wholeness
      and the questions that were asked before
      remain silent.
      Look! Even now it is before you!
      This instant it is here!
      Tell me what you see, dear one;
      tell me what you hear.

The woodman answered,
      I see a high mountain with many plateaus
      and a great multitude walking up many paths
      that wind long distances toward the top.
      On each path a herald is proclaiming
      his way the only way,
      and on the many plateaus
      are many ministers shouting,
            "Rest here! View this vista,
            the most beautiful of them all!"

      Yet there is no happiness there
      They curse each other on the different paths
      and stand on every plateau
      in condemnation
      of the higher plateaus.
      I hear judgments of those
      whose vision is not as wide,
      and from the highest plateaus
      come the sermons of those
      who decry duality and deny it—
      in the day they deny,
      but in the night, as I,
      they still cut wood in their jungle:
      they still search the crevasses
      for sustenance;
      they still stagger through their thickets
      and slash.

      Tell me, Father.
      Which path must I follow?
      On which plateau may I rest?

      My son,
I answered the woodman,
      to climb o'er the ground
      from plateau to plateau
      is not the way to go.
      There is no path on the mountain
      that leads all the way to the top
      nor a single place where a woodman
      may let go his axe.
      There is no plateau on any slope
      where one may stop contending with opposites;
      for to climb o'er the ground from goal to goal
      creates the original twoness—
      a climber and the goal.

      Then how, Counselor?
the woodman asked.
      How can I climb the mountain?
      How may I reach the throne?

      Listen softly,
I said to the woodman,
      Listen gently with the heart.
      There is no way there but to BE there.
      This way soars above the ground,
      above the landmarks, above the plateaus,
      swiftly, silently, immediately
      on wings of Love.
      This is how I shall take you there, Beloved—
      in an instant
      in the twinkling of an eye
      on the Wings of the Morning.
      Indeed, the Way there is to be there.
      Then need you not at each plateau
      proclaim it the goal for all
      nor whisper longer of those above
      or admonish the ones below.

      You see, Love is the Key to the mystery.
      Love alone sounds the melody
      heard at the immortal Height.
      Love is the wing that lifts thee there
      and there hands thee the scepter.
      Love has beckoned Me, thy Comforter,
      because you and I are One.
      You and I are Love.

Immediately the measured moment ended
and we stood atop our timeless mountain.


      My son,
I said,
      look with Me from this High Place.
      With the same eye that beheld the axe
      now view the Kingdom!
      Look to the East.
      The sun has risen!
      where morning dew glistens.
      North! South! All you see here,
      as far as you envision here,
      is the Kingdom I give you today!

      Now, lift up your eye and see
      the simple sparrow there,
      the soaring swallow,
      the sun, the stars.
      Everything you see there—
      everything envisioned here—
      is your very own.

      Now, listen to the sounds, Beloved—
      whispering wind, laughing children,
      distant notes proclaiming NOW your Sabbath.
      Sounds, too, are my Kingdom, dear one,
      and I give you them all today.

      Next, with the inner eye
      look at everything childlikeness allows.
      Envision the oceans,
      the sands, the multitudes,
      fair fields of fragrant flowers,
      oaks unsown in future seasons,
      distant mountains higher yet than this.
      These, too, are yours, my Son!
      Yea, all you see here,
      as far as you envision here,
      is the Kingdom you are this day.

      Listen. Listen and hear!
      Even now you are the only Awareness
      that views this Holy Place!
      All you see is the Selfhood you be!
      You are this minute
      the Holy Witness of Me.
      You have naught left to do
      but gird up thy loins
      and accept thy rightful Identity!

      Now, deck thyself with majesty and excellency!
      Array thyself with glory and beauty!
      Thine own right hand
      holding Truth's Scepter
      hath saved thee!
      From this moment forth, view all things
      from the standpoint of Perfection
      because thou alone are the King!
      Dominion is given you this day!
      Yea I say,
      be the single Selfhood and reign!
      Reign, King of all creation.


The woodman's eyes had been opened before
but now was opened his Heart.
From out that place of knowing
where is no sediment of stagnation,
no blindness of equivocation,
came forth the honest sounds spoken
only from the pinnacle of the mountain,

      It is true! It is True!
      I am the King!
      I am!
      —the very words I whispered
      as tinkling cymbals from the slopes,
      the same sounds I prattled
      in pious self-righteousness
      from the plateaus,
      and droned as far-off dreams
      along the pathways of desire—
      ah, but spoken finally from
      the Mountain that Childlikeness is.

      It is so! I am the King!
      I have heard of Thee
      by the hearing of the ear
      but now it is the Eye that seeth Thee,
      oh Mind being Me!
      This is MY Kingdom!
      My very Self I see,
      all perfect infinity!
      I have never see a sight
      nor heard a sound but my own!
      Yea, the people and things I see
      are not separate nor apart from Me.
      They appeared dimly as an impostor's judgment
      of the King's infinity.
      The plateaus and paths below
      were my woodcutter interpretation of Me.
      The woodcutter's role
      is but the shadow of Me.
      At last, at last, I see
      the entire universe has its existence
      as this Awareness I be!
      Truly, it has been the Father's pleasure
      to give the Kingdom to ME!

      Oh, how foolish I have been,
      writhing in the role of woodcutter
      unaware of Identity.
      I viewed the very Self I am
      and judged it; then I named it,
      bought it, sold it, fought it,
      struggled to secure it,
      bowed down before it
      and chopped it with an axe—
      measured it, weighed it,
      entombed it in time,
      gave it the Life and Authority
      that all the time were Mine!
      The borrowed axe was borrowed from Myself!
      The acres leased were rented from Myself!
      The wood was cut for Me alone!

      Every tree in the forest is Mine
      and every forest in the land is Thine,
      One Awareness being all I am!

      Now I look across the valley and see a tree.
      It is Me, because where do I see it
      but in the Awareness I be?
      And how? Seeing is being ME!
      The tree is an attribute of Loveliness
      Deity knows Itself to be!
      Yea, God-Awareness is My activity—
      faithful Witness of Harmony,
      honest Witness of Simplicity,
      eternal Action of Deity.
      Indeed, this Now-Awareness is Identity!
      The impostor's judgment
      had been the impostor's agony.

Woodman, reigning new king,
lifts his scepter to speak,

      I have sought Truth all my life,
      but lo…
      That that I seek, I AM!
      No exterior law roots me evermore
      to an effete clay.
      No season binds me anymore
      to await the day
      when worms deprive me of living beauty.

      I am the King!
      I am the Law of my Holy Kingdom!
      As I decree so it shall be!
      Exterior law is annulled:
      no law exists but God-Me.
      Outside is inside;
      inside, outside:
      Above and below, the same.
      Having been lifted up, I see
      my images lifted likewise
      and drawn to me,
      understood as I understand God-Self to be.
      The Millennium begins
      as I understand and acknowledge
      the perfection already roundabout!


      From this time forth, dear Father-Being-Me,
      I will reign with justice and dignity.
      I will speak to Myself as the One Authority.
      I will command without congresses or councils,
      without ministers, magistrates or armies,
      To see the world's tribulation cease,
      I live the Child's transcendent Peace.
      It is the counsel of All-Rightness
      I listen to,
      The finished Kingdom I see,
      revealing Heaven, right here,
      to this Awareness being Me.
      Millennium now is my Final Decree!


The story has been told now, reader,
yet only one has listened.
The picture has been painted
but one alone has seen it.
The one who plays this symphony
understands its harmony—
the one who listens to its melody
is the softness of the sound.
Indeed, the one who reads this book aloud
is the One who has written it,
for Deity, its Self-Awareness
and all it perceives
are one perfect Identity.

This is your Melody,
dear woodcutter who is King.
Reign with Childlikeness!
Lift up your Heart and sing!

©1976 by William Samuel. All rights reserved. Butterfly Publishing House publishes audio CDs, DVDs and the writings William Samuel. Visit William Samuel and Friends website for more information. Our thanks to Sandy Jones for making these valuable works available.

The Cosmic Egg & the Sense of Self
by Art Ticknor

~ The first segment of Art's presentation at the 2006 TAT Spring Conference.

Let's start by talking about the close companion who's with you now, who's with you every day. You know who I'm referring to, right? Your sense of self. That sense of self, and the separation anxiety that goes along with it, is the source of much of your misery. Spiritual action, the theme of this conference, is any effort aimed at questioning, doubting, challenging that sense of self.

Vishnu and Lakshmi in the Brahmaand You're probably familiar with the Egyptian Aten symbol: rays extending from the sun, each ending in a hand. You—what you think you are—are the hand, Awareness projected into individual consciousness. Better yet, an eye or observer encapsulated within the egg of life and death, the cosmic egg. The Indians have something they call the Brahmaand, showing Vishnu and Lakshmi in the cosmic egg. This could be said to represent your inner male and female, logic and intuition, or projected further out as you and your mate, family, etc.

Consciousness is imposed on you, and you're hypnotized into thinking it is you. It's a dream to awaken from—a cosmic egg you have to break out of, like a chick—if you want to live. The unacceptability of the death-sentence is motivation for some seekers. The yearning for love, completion, Home is motivation for some.

Spiritual action leads to liberation from consciousness, from life and death. It requires the disruption of the conviction of I-amness.

I'd like to take you on a little trip down memory lane with me. It was Monday night following the spring TAT conference four years ago. Bob F, who would start the long drive back to Colorado the next morning, and I were talking at the kitchen table. We lapsed into a comfortable silence, and something occurred which I attempted to put into writing later:

The Current—
When it descends now, something in me remembers it and recognizes it.
It carries me back into myself,
asking me if I'm really the hand at the end of the ray—or the something
I once saw as being at the other end, from which the ray comes.
When it descends again, my tiredness resists it, but my heart welcomes it.
It shows me that everything I know is impermanent
and, therefore, there's no argument with what Pulyan said:
Nothing of me will remain.
What, then (it asks me) is permanent? Where is it?

Egyptian Aten Spiritual action leads to discontinuities (insights, satoris) in my experience. And with me, it usually happened only when on solitary retreats. One such time the question "What is the source of my awareness?" came out of nowhere and stayed with me for a couple days. It was the first thought in the morning and last thought at night. I was out for a walk one afternoon, sat down on a tree stump, and had a "vision" of being attached to something bigger than myself at the end of a long string. And when I saw that with my mind's eye, the question was answered. I didn't think much about it at the time, but I mentioned it along with other things that had occurred during the retreat when I wrote to Richard Rose after I returned home.

In his response, he said that my seeing the source of my awareness as something larger than myself that I was attached to, etc., was the highlight of his year. My reaction when reading his comment was that he must have had a pretty low year if that was the highlight. Years later, watching the "Mister Rose" video put together by some students who had made a trip to West Virginia from Raleigh, I heard him say that you need to find your umbilical cord, the mental umbilical cord that attaches you to your source. And I knew then what he was referring to.

The second part of what occurred that April night four years ago I labeled as "Pride & Prayer" when I journalized it. The conversation with Bob resumed after the silence, and we somehow got on the topic of prayer:

When I explained that I only feel I can pray honestly when I'm backed into a corner,
Bob replied: Don't you see that you're always backed into a corner?
And I saw that, through weakness, pride was trying to run the show.
God speaks to me, providing abundant grace and inspiration,
And yet I refuse to speak to him,
Fooling myself into thinking I've got the upper hand.

As long as you're identified with the sense of individuality, the I-amness, you're trapped in a cosmic egg—a cosmos of things, which are created and destroyed. The thing you think you are came out of Nothing (no-thing) and will return to Nothing. How can you break out of thing-ness?


Pepper ... and Salt cartoon –
Canine patient to canine therapist:
"I finally caught my tail, and got
absolutely no satisfaction out of it."

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