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January 2007

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

This month's contents:

White Swan by Luba Sterlikova White Swan by Luba Sterlikova

Generating the Doubt Sensation by Bob Cergol | In Shunyata from the Heart Sutra | Three Questions by Art Ticknor | The Darkness of God (part 2) by John Wren-Lewis | Poems by Shawn Nevins | A Double Edged Sword by Bob Fergeson | Humor | Reader Commentary

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> View video clips of the TAT spring conference DVDs: "Beyond Mind, Beyond Death" and "What Is Spiritual Action?"

Generating the Doubt Sensation:
The Precursor to Seeing the Real
by Bob Cergol

Following are the notes used by Bob for his presentation at the April 2006 TAT conference, "What Is Spiritual Action?"

letter E Experience gives rise to the experiencer. Experience reinforces the experiencer. No experience—no experiencer. All experience involves two kinds of witnessing. At all times we are literally staring at the Real simultaneously while staring at the unreal. But the preponderance of our staring is fixated on the unreal. (See awareness diagram.)

Experience has an effect upon the attention. Spiritual action is action that produces the "doubt sensation." The doubt sensation causes the attention to retrace the source of experience. (See certainty vs. doubt diagram.)

Nothing is observed without the observer simultaneously being observed. Normally the preponderance of attention is on "outside" events. As the preponderance of attention shifts inward, a threshold is approached. On the "other side" of that threshold is the realization of Being. Being knows itself. Crossing that threshold requires breaking the fixation of attention on experience. Whatever dislodges or disrupts and leads to the dissolution of the fixation of the attention on external experience can be said to be spiritual practice. (See observed/observer diagram.)

Verse by Richard Rose at the back of Profound Writings, East and West:

I come to you as a man selling air,
     And you will think twice at the offer and price,
And you will argue that nothing is there,
     Although we know that it is—everywhere.

I bring a formula largely untold,—
     Of forces, mixed with between and betwixt,
And only seen when allowed to unfold,
     And better felt when the body is cold.

I have a map to the home of the soul.
     Beyond the mind is a golden find,—
The paradox is a guide to the goal,—
     Though doubt is sacred, each man is the Whole.

Nisargadatta says: "My Guru too taught me to doubt—everything and absolutely. He said: 'deny existence to everything except your self.' Through desire you have created the world with its pains and pleasures.... Enquire, investigate, doubt yourself and others. To find truth, you must not cling to your convictions; if you are sure of the immediate, you will never reach the ultimate."


CERTAINTY: fixed, settled, determined—knowledge beyond any doubt
DOUBT: a condition of uncertainty; often accompanied by apprehension or fear when the doubt is of a personal nature

In response to the comment from a correspondent, "Generating the doubt sensation has been one of my biggest stumbling blocks": It is NOT something that YOU generate. It is something that happens to you. It is a reaction that you witness. Life-styles either accelerate or impede this.

The condition or experience of separate existence is accompanied by the condition or experience of uncertainty with respect to the nature of that existence.

WHAT CAUSES THIS DOUBT? (a very important question to consider)
WHAT CAUSES CONVICTION? (even more important to consider)
IN EVERY EXPERIENCE AWARENESS IS PRESENT—without which neither conviction or doubt is possible.



WHAT IS THE "DOUBT SENSATION"? It is a starkly felt condition of uncertainty regarding one's own life—its meaning, its definition—and regarding one's very self-existence. One's definition is undetermined and one's ultimate destination is unsettled and unknown.

When you LOSE the certainty of your existence, you lose the external object of awareness, break the fixation of the attention on experience; and absent the distraction of anything external to awareness, the only thing that remains to "look" at is awareness. (THAT is the real ZEN doubt sensation.)

There is no such thing as spiritual action that ADDS to you.

There is no spiritual value in action except for the affect is has upon your attention.

Action is largely an illusion. It is RE-ACTION—the dust cloud expanding outward as a result of the "big bang"....

You are not the doer. You are the watcher.

Watching this "line of action" creates self-conviction and self-doubt.

If I could present your attention with something that caused you to see in a reflective way, yet required an object to generate the focus—and then in an instant removed that object—the object of seeing would become empty. That's what an experience that afflicts your sense of self accomplishes. The removal of the experience object results in a tension of emptiness that occupies the witness and disrupts the dreaming!

Analogy: the movie reel runs out and the images that were occupying the focus of the attention disappear in a flash—leaving only a lighted empty screen. On what does the attention land?

Analogy: waking from a dream; not quite awake, not asleep, the focus of attention is the puzzlement of the dream content; one stares into the dream, but since one is not entirely awake, and since the dream content is unreal and therefore is undecipherable, we give up that object—yet the staring into something continues.

Analogy: When you stare into a light source—what do you see?—nothing!
When you look into pure darkness—what do you see?—nothing!
Is there not still something seen!?
Is there not still an object of awareness?—the sense of being?!

light from projector There is a "silent presence" that we are, and that knows itself, in which all things arise, all events occur, and all motion takes place—yet nothing is happening. It existed before you and exists without you. You are that!


Fixation of the attention on the movie,
Identification with experience,
Belief in the body as "I-ness,"
Belief in the mind as "I-ness,"
… all block seeing directly.


Doubt is the agent of dissolution that allows direct seeing into the "other side" because as soon as we doubt, we dissociate from experience to some degree and instead look at the nature of experience, look at the process of experience, become the witness instead of the character lost in experience.

The more one watches the process or nature of experience, the more the doubt sensation grows.


What generates conviction? (we don't, it happens to us)

What are beliefs born of?

What generates doubt? (self-doubt, worry and consternation about our life)



A series of targeted statements to elaborate on the above …

crossroad At the center of vision is concentrated the ego's visualization. That which is in sharpest focus (experience) and seems real is not real. That which is in the periphery—but always there, and goes unnoticed—is real.

Doubt breaks the focus at this center.

You can't observe the Self directly. You can't look at the "Who am I?" head-on. The Self is seen peripherally.

Right now—in this very instant—what fills your seeing?

You are that which remains when all objects in the attention are ignored or removed. What THAT is, is beyond thought and beyond individual consciousness, yet is self-aware.

From "The Mirror" by Richard Rose (emphasis added using bold-faced "we's"):

I am a mirror of the process called seeming,
I mirror the seeming. . . .
Watching the watching of seeming and dreaming.


I am a mirror facing the Absolute,
There is nothing to face, until we turn our backs
Upon the void. . . . Upon projections. . . .
Upon particularization, Upon seeming. . . .
Until we realize we are not turning away
From a void or from confusion or meaninglessness,
Until we realize that we do not realize. . . .
Except that the Absolute has a mirror
Which it turns upon itself,

       I have had enough of my adventure
Into endless possibilities of my self. . . .

~ From a presentation given at the April 2006 TAT conference "What Is Spiritual Action?" See the April 2006 conference page for DVD information.

White Swan by Luba Sterlikova In Shunyata:

No Form, no Feeling, no Thought,
No Volition, no Consciousness.
No Eyes, no Ears, no Nose, no Tongue, no Body, no Mind.
No Seeing, no Hearing, no Smelling, no Tasting,
No Touching, no Thinking;
No world of Sight.
No world of Consciousness;
No Ignorance and no end to Ignorance;
No Old Age and Death and no end to Old Age and Death.
No Suffering, no Craving, no Extinction, no Path;
No Wisdom, no Attainment.

From The Heart Sutra http://www.digitalzendo.com/library/heart_sutra_translation1.html

Three Questions
by Art Ticknor

What are you able to see by introspection? For the person seeking self-knowledge, the distinction between subject and object, between viewer and view, is critical. And the view needs to include what we generally consider interior territory. But when we observe the mind, we often find ourselves going round and round in whirlpool-like circles. So the question arises of whether there is a certain progression of focus that may help. I think there is and that it can be represented by a series of questions that the introspector can ask himself.

question mark Question 1: Are you the thinker, the feeler?

Are you able to watch thoughts and feelings with detachment? If not, an "effortless" meditation (see the December 2005 TAT Forum for a description by Mike Conners) or vipassana technique may be useful. The key to a dispassionate observing of thoughts may be a certain inner relaxation that gives us a degree of freedom from being identified with them. I'm using the term "thought" in a broad sense to include the ever-changing series of images flickering on the screen of awareness, including mentation and feelings as well as what we generally suppose to be the outside world—all objects of awareness.

I realize I may be skipping blithely over something that's a stumbling block for many of us, which is watching feelings with the same detachment as we're able to summon for watching thoughts. For the emotional seeker, identification with feelings is the seeming life-blood of existence ("I might as well be dead as have no feelings"). It's not a question of having no feelings but of not being identified with them, of realizing that they are parts of the scenery, not parts of the viewer. For the intellectual seeker, feelings are irrational and therefore somewhat of an embarrassment as well as threatening—clues to their unacknowledged importance in our self-belief.

If you are able to watch thoughts, where do they come from? Are you selecting which thoughts to have? Do you create your thoughts by premeditated choice? Or do thoughts happen to you, coming into consciousness—including dream consciousness—without your making them? Are you the thinker, or are you experiencing thought? If you're not sure, keep looking until you are.

question mark Question 2: Are you the decision-maker, the doer?

Once you see the truth about the first question, then it's time to take the next step inward. This involves an expansion of the view to include mental processes such as decision-making. Just as you don't know where the switch is to allow the objective observation of thoughts, you don't know how to switch your focus to get behind the decision-making process. These inward steps occur by seeming accident but are propelled by effort. By considering the results of decisions and wondering about why they came out the way they did, by keeping alert to the inner conflicts that occupy a good part of our interior scenery, watching the ongoing arguments without trying to interfere in the process, an accident may occur sooner or later, and you'll see the decision-making process itself from an anterior point of observation.

In my case, I witnessed the decision-making process operating in slow-motion at a time of high tension—like the slow-motion witnessing that often happens to people who realize they're about to experience a car crash. But inner seeing doesn't necessarily have a visual feel to it. More generally it's an intuitive seeing, as in: "Oh, now I see what you mean." In other words, something has become intuitively obvious to us.

As with the first question, look until you see clearly what your role is in the decision-making process. Are you the decision-maker, determining which inner conflicts will arise at what times, orchestrating the courtroom procedure as judge and jury? Are you then the "doer" who carries out the decisions that you, in your role of judge and jury, have made? Or are you the awareness that is observing the inner argument, the decision-making, and the resultant doing?

The greatest miracle of existence is the impossibility of existence itself. (How did the first thing arise out of nothing?) Miracles affecting physical manifestation are the lowest level of amazements. Between these two extremes are the miracles that occur as the mind's processes come into conscious view. And when that occurs, your conviction of being in control, of being in the driver's seat, may run into overwhelming data to the contrary. Your belief that if you "let go" and just let things take their own course, your life would fall apart at the seams, may be based on a delusion of control—like the child whose car seat has a steering wheel, which he uses to steer the car.

question mark Question 3: Who or what is observing?

The path to self-knowledge has two broad avenues, one being the route of bhakti or devotion and the other the path of jnana or self-inquiry.

The devotee hopes to lose himself in the object of his worship, while the self-inquirer hopes to find himself through direct seeing or wisdom. The process of questioning the self by observation probably appeals more to the latter than the former. True knowledge or wisdom comes through knowing what you're not, but the two categories of mentality approach this in different ways.

The self-inquirer knows that to find the self he has to distinguish self from not-self. Faulty identification with the not-self is what prevents true self-knowing. The self, the subject, is the observer. Everything that comes into the view is an object of observation—and therefore not-self.

We can, through Douglas Harding's experiments for example, glimpse what we're looking out from. And of course what we're looking out from is the us that's aware, isn't it. But then the contradiction arises between the conviction that what we're looking out from is Awareness and the conviction that I'm a separate something observing (i.e., aware of) Awareness. Do we own a personal awareness, each of us grasping his own separate "mind," scared to death that disease or death will destroy that prize possession?

There is only one Awareness. God, the Source, the Real Self—whatever you want to call it—is the eye that sees itself. To know the Self is not a perceptual or a conceptual knowing but, as Franklin Merrell-Wolff stated, a knowing by identity. We recognize our Self when the false identities drop off. That is also where the paths of losing the self and finding the self meet.

A Personal Report on Consciousness
Transformation Through an Encounter with Death
by John Wren-Lewis

...continued from the December 2006 Forum:

letter A And the whole process was blissful, which is another way in which my experience differs markedly from most near-death reports, where there is almost always a terrible sense of regret at coming back from a heavenly state or "place" into the narrow world of physical existence. The physical world to which I "came back" was in no sense narrow—it was glorious beyond belief, and to be manifest seemed merely another mode, as it were, of the blissful dark. I resonate to those wonderful words attributed to God in the Book of Job: "Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth, when the morning stars sang together and all the songs of God shouted for joy?" I feel I know exactly why the Bible says that God looked upon the creation and saw that it was good. But before my experience, the idea of God creating the world always conjured up images of a superpotter or builder at work, whereas the "feel" of my experience of creation was nothing like that. It was more like Aristotle's idea of created things being drawn into existence by the sheer radiance of divine beauty; the bud that was me opened out, as it were, in response to that black sun that was also, in some utterly paradoxical way, my-Self. I was alpha and omega, the beginning and end of the creation-process.

I have put all this in the past tense, a description of something that happened to me in Thailand, but that leaves out the most astonishing thing about it, namely that it is all still here, both the shining dark void and the experience of myself coming into being out of, yet somehow in response to, that radiant darkness. My whole consciousness of myself and everything else has changed. I feel as if the back of my head has been sawn off so that it is no longer the 60-year-old John who looks out at the world, but the shining dark infinite void that in some extraordinary way is also "I." And what I perceive with my eyes and other senses is a whole world that seems to be coming fresh-minted into existence moment by moment, each instant evoking the utter delight of "Behold, it is very good." Here yet again I am constantly up against paradox when I try to describe the experience. Thus, in one sense, I feel as if I am infinitely far back in sensing the world, yet at the same time I feel the very opposite, as if my consciousness is no longer inside my head at all, but out there in the things I am experiencing. I often get the sense that when I perceive, say, a chair or a tree, I am the chair or the tree perceiving itself, and I did a double take when I recently came across the statement of Meister Eckhart: "The eye with which I see God is the eye with which God sees me."

I hasten to add that my consciousness isn't like this all the time, though I wish it were. I constantly drift back into my old way of experiencing myself and the world, and at first, in Thailand, I again and again caught myself thinking, "Oh, God, it's gone," but as day succeeded day I began to realize that "gone" was the wrong way of putting it. Plotinus wrote that the Supreme is always with us but we do not always look at it (Gould, 1963) and I now know what that strange statement must have meant. If anyone had tried to tell me before this happened that something as amazing and delightful as this consciousness could simply escape one's notice, I would have said it was impossible; but I now know from experience that it is plain fact—I can, and constantly do, just forget that the shining darkness is there, and go back to being what I always used to be. Then suddenly I stop in my tracks and wake up to the fact that something is wrong, whereupon it all comes flooding back—the shining dark void and the experience of everything coming into glorious existence now! and now! and now! with every moment a new creation. In fact, I now know exactly why the Christian mystics insisted that it is we who turn away from God, not God from us.


And as I lived, week after week, with this process of drifting away from God-consciousness and clicking back to it again, I came more and more to feel that in some strange way, the God-consciousness wasn't really extraordinary at all. It was like coming home to something I'd always known deep down, which I suppose is what Plotinus meant when he said that the Supreme is not "other"; it is we in our so-called normal consciousness who are "other," estranged from the true ordinariness of reality. As a practical expression of this, I found I had no urge or need to make any drastic changes in my life-style. I have remained recognizably John; I've not lost my taste for meat or wine or good company or humor; and I have found no wish to spend long periods in meditation. I have for some years enjoyed half-hour spells of meditation without finding the process any big thing, and while I certainly enjoy these withdrawn periods more with the new consciousness, this is no different from my increased delight in other experiences, including sleep; I don't find that meditation, diet, or any other kind of discipline makes any difference to the frequency with which I slip out of the consciousness, nor my ability to click back into it. I entirely understand now the statement of a modern American mystic that before enlightenment he put himself through all manner of disciplines, but on the day he became fully realized, he simply went home with his wife and watched TV.

What the new consciousness has brought about is a subtle but radical change in attitude to life as a whole, for which the best name I can find is the Buddhist term "nonattachment." It's the practical counterpart of the paradox of creation that I've just been describing: that Brahman nirvanic consciousness has no need to manifest since it is totally complete in itself, yet it takes delight in manifesting. In the same way, I still take pleasure—more pleasure than before—in good food or wine or music and other pleasant experiences, but I'm no longer very much bothered about whether I have them or not, since the Darkness at the back of my consciousness is already all the satisfaction I can possibly wish for: There is total satisfaction simply in moment-by-moment being, though along the line of time, the body-mind's biological system still pursues its individual interests much as it has always done. And by an extension of this principle, I find I no longer have any fear of death, even though I have no more knowledge than I had before about whether the individual John Wren-Lewis is going to reincarnate, or survive death in some nonmaterial form, or simply come to an end as far as time is concerned. I understand why the mystics of all religions have said that the pearl of great price is not immortality but eternal life, which is lived in every moment.

On this last point I join hands with the majority of those who have had near-death experiences: Although I have not come across any account of a total consciousness-change of the kind I have been describing, it is very common indeed in NDE reports for the person to enjoy life much more afterwards and yet, paradoxically, to be quite unworried at the prospect of dying. Moreover, this is reported not only by people who are pulled back from clinical death as I was, but also by some who brush with death in the quite different sense of thinking they are certain to die in life-threatening situations; and even by some who have been in crises, where there is no direct threat of death at all, such as solitary confinement; and, of course, there have been mystics, like the nineteenth-century Hindu saint Ramana Maharshi, who entered "eternity-consciousness" by putting themselves through an imaginative simulation of dying (Mahadevan, 1977). It seems to me that the conclusion to which all these experiences taken together point is that we lose contact with "God," the universal moment-by-moment aliveness that is our birthright, because our consciousness somehow gets bogged down in the survival mechanisms of the individual body-mind system, so that we never-know what true life-enjoyment really is until some kind of shock causes the survival mechanisms to give up for just long enough to break the spell. In other words, that "special grace of dying" that the Tibetan Book of the Dead describes is also available to the living—for once consciousness is liberated from the spell, the survival-mechanisms can start up again and carry on with their proper work of keeping the organism alive, without ever again being a barrier to the infinitely larger enjoyment of simple present being.

I have been taken by surprise again and again as I have seen this principle working out in my own life since the NDE; but perhaps the biggest surprise of all was the discovery that the moment-by-moment delight of "Behold, it is very good!" was not only unaffected by whether I had a good thing I wanted or not, but actually continued in situations I would normally have called depressing, like the Surat Thani hospital room, or even down-right unpleasant, like a filthy wet day or a heavy cold. This last revelation bowled me over completely, for I have always been a coward about pain and physical disease, and although I knew from the very first that my fear of death was a thing of the past, after the NDE, I had no such assurance about pain. In fact, I speculated on that first night in Thailand that the total contrast between my delight in "coming back" to physical existence and the feeling of regret reported in so many near-death experiences might be due to my lack of pain, possibly through stimulation of the brain's natural endorphin anesthetics by the drug, so different from the suffering bodies of cardiac arrest or accident victims. And, over the next few weeks, I found that headaches or travel sickness did indeed distract me from the new consciousness, forcing me to wait until they had passed for it to take over again.

kundalini upside down Then, just as I had resigned myself to the idea that my "enlightenment" must be of a very inferior kind, since it apparently gave me none of that immunity to suffering that is supposed to characterize the enlightened person in Eastern thought, I began to notice changes. The feeling of being "open to the void" at the back of my head seemed to have spread, without my noticing it, down my spine to the middle of my back, and around the same time I found that the tinnitus (hissing in the ears) from which I've suffered for some years had changed from being a mild annoyance that I could at best manage to forget at times, to a positively delightful sound that I welcomed as an old friend whenever it forced itself on my attention. I also found myself actually enjoying tiredness and the many minor pains that beset a 60-year-old body, a startling verification of Freud's contention that pleasure and pain are often a matter of how we perceive precisely the same sensation. Then came my first post-NDE cold, which was a startling revelation of hitherto unexpected capacity for pleasure—not just the enjoyment of wallowing in the indulgence of a day in bed, but positively delight in nose, throat, and head sensations that in the past I've always loathed. And about that time I became aware that my whole back now seemed "open to the Dark," right down to the buttocks (an upside-down version of the Hindu kundalini-energy that is supposed to flow up the spine to the head?) (Sonella, 1975).

It seems as if, slowly and entirely at its own sweet will, the consciousness is taking me over more and more, and I have no idea where it will all lead. I am now quite prepared to give credence to stories of saints and martyrs praising God in the midst of suffering, which I'd hitherto dismissed as a masochistic affirmation made through gritted teeth—though I hasten to add that I haven't become Instant Hero: I have no intention of "tempting God" by inviting greater pain; I still keep aspirin in the house and would have no qualms about using it if I found pain blocking out the new consciousness. Nor would I dare presume to exhort anyone else to try to transcend their pain: I now understand how it is that mystics, apparently in defiance of logic, can simultaneously work harder than most for the ordinary relief of suffering, or for making a better world, and praise God for everything just as it is. Along the line of time I am as aware as I ever was that tinnitus or a cold are biological malfunctions and would not hesitate to accept a cure if it were offered, even though in moment-by-moment awareness I enjoy them thoroughly. And on the same principle, something like a sore or a wound or a mangled body is no less an evil requiring remedy along the line of time, just because it can also be experienced, from the different perspective of "eternity-consciousness," as an unbelievably glorious dance of atoms or whorls in space-time or whatever. I am sure that the maya or illusion of which Hindu or Buddhist philosophy speaks is not material creation as such—else why would Buddhists make lovely gardens?—but the illusion of mistaking our own labels like "wound" or "mangled body" for ultimately real being, when they are simply phases of a limited biological process.

I do not yet, and maybe never will, know how to formulate a satisfying intellectual answer to the age-old "problem of evil," of how a world involving real suffering can possibly be worthwhile, or "justified," as an expression of ultimate good or bliss. All I know is that the overwhelming feeling-tone of this new consciousness (which seems, as I have said, to be the truly ordinary human consciousness) is immense gratitude for the privilege of being part of it all—and that too is a defiance of logic, since if "I am That" then there's nobody to thank! I have no wish to exhort anyone else that they should be grateful: I know enough psychology to be aware that if anyone feels like railing against God for creating the world, it is far healthier to express the anger than to repress it; I cannot help recalling that it was Job, who went ahead and cursed God, and not his mealy-mouthed comforters, who was given the Revelation. But when that Revelation came, Job's anger gave away to that gratitude which, in Blake's words, "is heaven itself." This is the message of all the mystics—and for myself, personally, I am overwhelmingly grateful to have been plunged into this new adventure of consciousness that would be dizzying if it weren't so exciting, a research project far more intriguing than anything that ever came my way in my years as a scientist. (For some first results of that research, see Wren-Lewis, 1985 and 1986.)

From The Archives of Scientists' Transcendent Experiences (TASTE), edited by Dr. Charles T. Tart, Submission No. 00051, Submitter No. 00048, Posted: June 14, 2000. From the TASTE editor's introduction:

John Wren-Lewis (real name) was originally trained as a mathematical physicist in wartime England. He came to humanistic psychology from an industrial research career in which he was one of the world pioneers of scientific futures studies. In the 1950s and 1960s he became well-known on both sides of the Atlantic for his writings urging a humanistic faith capable of transcending the limitations of both dogmatic religion and materialistic scientism, and he is often cited as one of the initiators of the "death of God" movement. In the early 1970s he dropped out of industry to become a wandering scholar, in partnership with dream scholar Dr. Ann Faraday. His first country of call was the United States, where he was invited to undertake visiting lecturing and professorial appointments at several universities and colleges. Later travels have taken them to Central America and the Caribbean, and then to the Orient, where they spent several years in India and a year in the Malaysian jungle with the Senoi tribe. They have now settled in Australia, where John has become an Honorary Associate of the School of Studies in Religion at the University of Sydney. (The above introduction is taken from the journal article introduction.)

Normally TASTE only publishes experiences which have not appeared elsewhere, but I found John's so extraordinary - and have since become only more and more fascinated in my contacts with him and await his forthcoming book, The 9:15 To Nirvana which will expand this account so much - that I am privileged to be able to reprint his 1988 article here. It is so rare to have someone with no previous biases and commitments to a particular spiritual system have such a profound spiritual experience. When The 9:15 To Nirvana appears it will be one of the most important books ever written on transcendent experiences, and I will add reference information on getting it to this site.

As a side note, the Senoi tribe referred to in the article were reputed to be masters of lucid dreaming, sharing dreams communally in the mornings, and having extremely good mental health as a consequence. The "myth" of the Senoi was spread widely by my reprinting an article, "Dream Theory in Malaya," by Kilton Stewart, in my 1969 Altered States of Consciousness anthology (listed as out of print, but available via mail order from my www.paradigm-sys.com/cttart/ site). I say "myth," for at the time I decided to reprint the article I knew its claims could not be readily checked for historical/factual accuracy, yet the idea of dream control was so intriguing and was reflected so well in my own personal experience that I thought of it as true "in principle," and things have turned out that way. Modern research, including that by John Wren-Lewis and Ann Faraday, has shown that Kilton Stweart's understanding of Senoi dream practices was probably mostly a projection of his own ideas rather than a reality: yet when people have tried them, they work!


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by Shawn Nevins

"City Morning"

Water flows as asphalt
bending and curving through curbs
like channels between multistory hills of steel.
What is a tree other than a street lamp,
and a bird but a scrap of paper
Ferns become fire hydrants
and two-legged deer browse
in coffee shops by stone tables.
Street light, car light, office light, flashing light,
every one a star;
every one a dewdrop on broken glass.
My watch says 6 AM.
All is a picture.
All is perfect.
It is morning everywhere.


The wind is a translation
speaking of secret longing -
the urge of all things to go home.
every edge of every creation
has a story and an ending.


Six and a half billion human eyes
that speak wordlessly of their seeing;
billions more eyes that are mute to our ears,
yet speak in their own fashion of experience.
All this rumbling, rambling talk falters
when deciphering the quick calls of a titmouse
flittering among our busy moments
beneath an early spring sky.


This word did not begin on a page
nor within a mind.
"This" was always this,
thus becoming is only revealing, not creating,
who we are.

A Double Edged Sword
by Bob Fergeson

One of the first steps in seeking our true nature is learning to observe ourselves, finding out who we are. Called self-observation, it's the simple but difficult task of getting to know yourself. To begin to discover, and doubt, your very sense of "self." If you as "self" are observable, what then are you really? Can you separate from what is false in you, and if so, what is left?

This cutting away can be done in two different but complimentary ways, by forging a double edged sword of reason and intuition. One edge is honed through group work and observing our daily lives in social interaction, while the other is sharpened through spiritual retreat or isolation, spending time alone without the distraction of the personality defenses. Through these seemingly opposite but complimentary methods, we can become more aware. Aware of who we are, by cutting away what we are not.

The first way, through friends, group work, and life itself, begins by watching the reactions of others to our actions, by asking our friends questions, and learning not to spin their answers. We can ask them to describe us, and through their eyes see something we were blind to. A group of our fellow seekers can serve as a reminder that we have a commitment to our search for definition, and that daily action must be taken. In this manner our friends become like alarm clocks or wake-up calls to keep us on track. Coupled with consciously facing the daily confrontation that comes from being engaged in life, we use these social tensions to become more aware.

The double-edged sword in battle, Maciejowski Bible (c. 1250) To discover the ego-self and see it for what it is, we may need to be consciously engaged in interaction with life—in the workplace, at home, and in groups of our fellow seekers. These can act as mirrors, mirrors made of friends, held together through tension and compassion, showing us ourselves without the veil of false thinking brought on by fear and desire. Then, life itself becomes our teacher.

The psychologist Maurice Nicoll ran spiritual groups in England for many years, and never grew tired of telling his students of the advantages that come from group work:

"If you work on yourself long enough with increasing understanding, you will reach a higher level, however small, in yourself, and you will know at once that the Work is true. The door into this possibility is self-observation, that is, becoming more conscious of yourself, from what you are taught. One can begin to become more conscious of other people, and not only that, but one’s conception of the world in which one lives begins to change at the same time. The second line of work is extremely useful with regard to attaining more consciousness of ourselves through self-observation. As I said, men and women think they observe themselves already.

"So, if you find a friend in the work, you should ask this friend to criticize you. This belongs to the second line. The result may be quite surprising. If you do not get negative, then you will begin to have more consciousness of what you are like. Some illusions of yourself may even be destroyed. But it is strong medicine."

To practice confrontation in a group setting can help us begin to question our own thinking and perhaps show us where and how it came into being. This is often a shock, if we are honest. It can enable us to solve the puzzle of who we are by dis-covering our sense of self and how it is manufactured daily through experience. We learn to discriminate between rationalization and thinking, between projecting and observing. Our reason comes to be in the service of our search, rather than in the service of our fantasies.

Usually our thinking is just a means for us to pump up our sense of self, whether it's in a negative or positive sense. We look for self-pity or loathing to build up the self in a negative manner, and to grandiosity, superiority and judging others to pump it up in the positive sense. We seldom simply look at this self-creation, our individuality-sense, without quickly turning away. But look we must, for we need find out how and why we create this self, what it really is, before we can truly go against it. We learn to be honest, and learn to see things as they are.

If we come to find that our manifest desire is to maintain our sense of identity, we may also begin to question how and why we are engaged in spiritual work. Will we stop our search for truth if it becomes disagreeable or tense? Many so-called seekers will bolt and run when a group begins to reflect the truth about its members.

We alternate this with time spent alone. This also shows us what the ego-self is through the process of triangulation. If we begin to observe the self, it must happen from a vantage point superior to the self. By stalking the self through self-observation, and by getting away from the social survival programs by isolating ourselves from outside influences, the personality or self will slowly shut down. We can then begin to see the difference between what we are in silence and what we are in the noisy pattern of the self, perhaps finding or becoming something which is not the self or personality in the process. When we are free from social pressure, the personality is no longer of use, it ceases to exist so to speak, so what remains? Do you know this part of yourself?

If we take these practical steps to seeing our self through spiritual work, we may be able to find the differences between what are called the outer and inner Man. The outer Man will always be fooling the Inner Man, through using our thinking process to serve emotions of fear and desire. We will always be fooling ourselves as to what we really want, who we are, and how we see ourselves. The outer Man may be constantly coaxing us into distractions, security, money, and power in order to keep us from looking within at what our real questions are. We can thus live a life of constantly deceiving ourselves, with the outer Man and his experiences taken as the real and only world. This outer self may also fool us with the distractions of spiritual work, of avoiding life by hiding in a seekers' self-created dream of illusion, of the bliss and escape to come. Our attention is thus focused outward, on experience and the world. If we find the Inner Man, through our friends and from time spent in silence, we may find our real questions, and therefore find real answers. We will have transcended the trap of fooling ourselves with our dream-stories, our songs of "self." The voice of our intuition will have a chance to be heard instead, and to be valued. The ego-self will fight this switch in value all the way, through our own thinking and misread emotions, even by hiding in a life of seeking, but it's the only way to real truth. With the help of group work to clear our thinking, and time spent alone to sharpen our intuition, we can begin the task of self-observation and of trusting the Inner Self, that still small voice within.

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

Point of View ...

point of view
Selçuk Erdem cartoons

Reader Commentary ...

I really enjoyed reading Mike Gegenheimer's article in the December 2006 forum. His recollections of Richard Rose's life and work were very clear, yet warm and personal. I was able to get a good sense of how life must have been on "The Farm" back in the early years. Thank you Mike!

~ from Heidi in Pittsburgh, PA

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