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

October 2007

This Month's Contents: Life's Pretty Forlorn as Some See It by Alfred Pulyan | Poems by Shawn Nevins | Easy to See, Yet Hard to Find by Gary Harmon | Quotes by Shams-i Tabrizi | Beyond Bliss by Art Ticknor | Humor

Editor's Note
by Shawn Nevins

TAT Forum Editors Pen "We are concerned with what it means just to 'be.' The very conception of 'being' is the problem. Why even should 'being' be?" That's a finger in the eye of ego, courtesy of Alfred Pulyan, for all those who would like to "just be."

This month, both Pulyan and Shams challenge our fundamental assumption of being. Yet they are just reminders, for we are our own Zen master. Every perception is a koan: a birth and death in miniature, and the perceiver (you) but a reflection of perception. Every insubstantial moment is an opportunity to face the Great Doubt and be honest about what we already know to be true.

Life's Pretty Forlorn as Some See It, by Alfred Pulyan

Modern Philosophy's Main Dish Is Despair, With Boredom, Anxiety, Dread Added for Zest

There is a story of a police officer who tried to persuade a supersalesman to abandon an attempt at suicide. After a little discussion, they both jumped in the river. If I had a discussion with Jean Paul Sartre, the originator of Existentialism, there would be no doubt about the outcome, I should finish up in complete despair, thus joining the third Earl Russell, Bertrand Russell, who stated in his urbane way that he rests securely "on a foundation of unyielding despair." At least, I might ...

It is characteristic of modern philosophy that its main dish is despair, with little items "on the side" like boredom, dread, and anxiety, to give zest to the meal. Men have reasoned about the mystery of existence until all avenues have been explored and now are reduced to studying words themselves, what we mean when we say something, what meaning itself means. We seem to have arrived at the very end of one era and the beginning of something entirely new—that is, if we are able to keep our fingers off the rocket-button.

According to Sartre, we just "surge up in the world" equipped with a mind. We are absolutely free, condemned to be free and entirely responsible for ourselves. There are no standards, there is nothing to depend upon in ourselves or outside. We have to make constant decisions and all we can ask ourselves is, "What would happen if everyone did so?" Often there is no solution even in that consideration.

If someone says God "speaks" to him, Sartre will say: "That is what he says. How do you know it isn't the devil, or that you are only imagining things. There is no proof whatever either for you or anyone else. There is no proof of anything."

There are other Existentialists like Kierkegaard who say the only way out of this unsatisfactory situation is belief in God. Faith, however, is not something that everybody has and Sartre certainly has no use for it. Kierkegaard seems to have been a frustrated man and never in good health. He died at 42 of a vague malady which he himself told the doctors was really psychological. Nevertheless, let us say one thing, blessed are they that believe!

As the word "Existentialism" shows, we are in very deep waters. We are concerned with what it means just to "be." The very conception of "being" is the problem. Why even should "being" be?

Leaving such little problems on one side, it is a fact that many persons who think at all put everything in one box labeled "being." Naturally this suggests the opposite to them—that is, non being—nothing, vacancy, the void, etc. However, where is nothing? Obviously nowhere! Then we have no problem there.

It does not occur to such persons—and there is no reason why it should since they are bound up in their own ideas—that the opposite to "being" might be something more, not less, than we normally know.

satre's tombstone Sartre assumes that subjectivity is final, perhaps ignoring our consciousness of subjectivity, the conscious aspect of thinking, unless he lumps that too in the same category of "subjective." He is entitled to do so, because Consciousness is itself an evasive and puzzling phenomenon, quite indescribable, but always concerned with some thought or perception.

Experimenters have tried to produce a state where all the five senses are as empty as possible, where there are no perceptions. In such a state the mind runs wild and hallucinates. The yogis, however, try to suppress both thoughts and perceptions, having a sound notion that there is a Consciousness all to itself, a Consciousness of itself, which can be so reached.

There is, and it is wonderful. It is the beatific vision. However, if one had this experience, one would only be happy in the short time it lasted and back to the old despair the rest of the time. Besides, Sartre would say it is only subjective anyway and subconscious as well.

Vivekananda expressed a wish to be able to remain in this state all day, but Ramakrishna said he was foolish because there was a state higher than this.

Since, as Whitman says, he thinks he could "turn and live with animals" because they are "so placid and self-contained" and do not "sweat and whine about their condition," there must be some factor in us which produces such a condition which the animals do not have. It is of course the self or consciousness, politely called ego. Ego cannot usually endure himself without distractions for five minutes, but the idea of ceasing is utterly abhorrent to him. He is always in conflict. He insists on deciding, but deciding is a constant problem to him.

The Buddha had an answer for this problem long ago. "There is, O disciples, an unborn, not become, not compounded, not constructed. If there were not this, no escape could be seen here from that which is born, become, compounded, constructed." (Udana, VIII 1-3.)

St. Augustine said the same thing: "Our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee."

It would seem we are back at Kierkegaard's solution, faith in God. However there is this difference: We know that this "unborn" entity exists and where it is to be found. It is the "Consciousness of itself," the "Consciousness which knows itself," and it is not the mystical vision which comes in a partly conscious flash, but the "higher state" that Ramakrishna referred to. It is a fully conscious state; a mind in the state that you, my reader, have as you read this, critically, but a mind filled with clear understanding.

Such understanding comes suddenly, by itself, as suddenly as when you see the point of a joke. Altho it comes of itself and cannot be arrived at as the culmination of a thinking process, nevertheless it is preceded by "work" aimed at weakening the insensate and dogged opposition of ego, who resists his own release. Just as the edge of the hand can be hardened in the Japanese method of karate, so ego's hypersensitivity can be gradually reduced by practice.

We are not aiming to destroy ego - that is ridiculous while we live - but only to get him into a state where he can for a moment drop his defenses, abandon his last control, and be open for what may come. Normally, a person would often die first, which is rather paradoxal since then he would lose ego altogether.

Even Sartre could do this "work", but it is far more amusing and remunerative to be the famous playwright, novelist, and writer of despair.

Jesus said these things are revealed to the simple, but hidden from clever men. It would almost seem as tho there is a point of no return, a state of complete inaccessibility. I had almost reached it myself, but was rescued by a near-miracle that I didn't deserve. I doubt if the "me" that exists now would have been successful with the "me" that existed then, if you see what I mean.

I was a real smart aleck and needed shock tactics. All I need now is a big bass drum and I would be "testifying to conversion". Well, I think "conversion" could well describe this, as also does the Japanese word "satori", then Chinese "wu" (fourth tone), the Sanskrit "moksha" or "mukta", and the simple word that I prefer, "awakening", or the term often used, "realization".

The reader can mentally run over a few famous religious personalities, psychotherapists, and intellectuals in general who are "buffered" by adulation, by constant solicitation, by their secretaries and assistants, by their pride. These are the boys and girls "least likely to succeed".

Both the mind and the self are wonderful entities and can be splendid servants, altho bad when convinced they are masters. Untimately all will be well, very well, but many persons, even those with every material comfort, will continue to find life a matter of boredom, anxiety, dread, and despair, when a little smartness and discrimination would induce them to experiment with the way out. When the student is ready, the master appears. But people are not to blame, it is the way things are.

—Reprinted from The Aberree, Volume 7, Issue 5, September 1960.

Poems by Shawn Nevins

"Your Strength"

Last night, I needed to stay alive,
needed to share my thoughts before leaving.
I forgot that you walk in wisdom,
that your mind is a route to the infinite,
that the smallest holds as much of life as the largest,
and any man may find his self if he tries.
This evening, there is no more for me to do.


"Taken Home"

We aren't as brave as young Aranae
drifting out on a silken thread of hope,
traveling to what will become home.
We rarely let fly:
preferring to juggle the familiar and unfamiliar,
and falling between,
halfway to nowhere,
having no faith in the wind
or our determination.


The queen anne's lace died early this year,
its fist-like seed heads brown under the last September sun.
I'm there, inside, looking out through brittle fingers.
Knowing the center of my fist is empty,
feeling the empty center of all.

Easy to See, Yet Hard to Find, by Gary Harmon

Is it madness to strive for an answer of your definition when other people function seemingly well in what may be a dreamlike mental projection? It might be insanity to live without knowing who is doing that. After all it's a crazy world, it does seem, but wouldn't it be great to know without doubt what is observing this world as it apparently spins and travels throughout the vast universe of this dimension.

The function of the higher intuition is to be the guide. Very well, but early on something told me there can be no other way. The most obvious untruths are easy to see, yet even they present reasons for our remaining attached to their absurdity. All the while logic cries for abandonment of the intuition's war in opposition to vanity. The logical thinking of my spiritual quest was repeatedly put to the test when sensuality summoned memories and decisions became a kangaroo's court with the powerful elementals of reproduction allied with imagined gratification ready to take the witness stand. The referee pounds the gavel, and the intuition must remain quiet. The case is presented and the faceless jury listens intensely. The facts state that we are retreating from error; but the sensations painfully plead their desires. Logic is more influential than the-behind-the-scenes dwelling place of the intuition. So the battle is on again as to which of the two is to win the day. One offers hope of eternal tranquility while the other offers immediate satisfaction. One is forever, if the hunch is correct, the other is memory of pleasure that will be intense and then quickly fade away. Then the referee steps in and must make a decision. And we wonder, was that decision already made or can we actually decide one way or the other. Wonder of wonders—a decision is made to gamble in favor of the unknown goal and retreat away from the known result of temporary bliss and ego gratification. Hope is still grasping at straws, or can you sense a certainty by the denial of certain momentary expenditure for the sake of feeling good.

faceless A momentary look at the probability that we are robotic in our individuality can be quite disheartening. We have been told that we have freewill, are unique, and can choose what we want in life—think "positive" they say. So we struggle and then find that it is not as uncomplicated as that. We might try a Douglas Harding-type approach of direct looking back at our point-of-looking out and see that there is nothing there at the place where we look from. Or even then, not take seriously that we have actually seen this point-of-origin and that there is nothing there. Easy to see, yet hard to find, but there is no price tag on freedom and freedom may be entirely different than what we envisage liberty to be. That which is priceless is of the most value, especially if we are not sure who it is that is doing the asking. To see the invisible right in front of us and find the same surrounding us, encompassing us transparent and without substance, is a life-changing shift, but seems like insanity to the dreamers within the dream.

The program is fixed—for the end occurred before the beginning, or might be said to have never happened at all. Is it possible that everything is upside down and backwards or only a reflection of Reality? I was told by my teacher and friend Richard Rose to retreat from error. That makes sense, but still provides little direction if you are not certain where to retreat to. Ignoring the first step… that being clarity of purpose, may lead to many false starts and that is to be anticipated. The direction to go is not entirely logical but needs the intuitive honed higher-self to guide the floundering of the machine which is our personal prison. Yes, the game may be fixed but by knowing that, really knowing certain latitudes are possible.

When is enough looking enough looking? There is a clear answer to that so I will state it here. It is not what someone else tells you it is like for them, for the lead-ups are unique for every seeker. The answer has been found when there is no longer any question of who was asking questions about itself; not judiciously, but with conviction and certainty, for you are that and can be no other. Just keep moving and looking and eventually you will discover the truth. But go back to sleep and you may fail to notice your bus arriving and then leaving… without you. Time is short but the present is eternally forever. Keep looking, questioning and only accept first hand authentication and the end is certain.

Quotes by Shams-i Tabrizi

dust motes of Rumi

This world is a treasure, and it is a serpent. Some people play with the treasure, some with the serpent. Those who play with the serpent must give their hearts over to being bitten by it. It bites the tail, and the head. If it bites the tail and you don't wake up, it will bite the head.

Someone said, "God is one." I replied, "So, what's it to you? You are in the world of dispersion—hundreds of thousands of dust motes, each of the dust motes scattered, withered, and frozen in the worlds. He indeed is. He is eternal Being. What's it to you? For you are not."

- From Me & Rumi translated by William Chittick. Shams was the mentor of the Persian poet Rumi.

Beyond Bliss by Art Ticknor


Franklin Merrell-Wolff, in an essay The High Indifference, wrote: "...This is the nature of the All in its essential organization that balances the great law (equilibrium). Karma is simply the law of equilibrium in action. All action whatsoever invokes a tension which is balanced by a counter tension so that the equilibrium is never broken. The High Indifference is a consciousness focused at this zero point of balance, but it implies something more. In many of the reports of deep imperiences, the ultimate characteristic given is that of ananda or delight. What the imperience of the High Indifference says is that while this is a stage on the way, beyond the predominance of delight and bliss is the neutral consciousness that stands between bliss and suffering and all other polarities."

He was referring to a realization beyond conceptual knowing or speculation that he had "imperienced" a month after an event that was the culmination of what he'd been intentionally striving toward for many years and which had brought him to the "state of high Delight or Ananda." Like Bernadette Roberts when she reached the "unitive" state in her twenties, he thought he had reached the final summit of self-knowing. And like her he was completely unprepared for what followed.

Richard Rose said he had "dialed bliss" during the years of his search between twenty-one and twenty-eight, but he eventually realized he hadn't reached the final answer. When it came, at age thirty, it was not at all in line with his expectations. He later concluded that there is a natural progression of states of being and that our graduation from one to the next takes a definite form: a salvation experience, the dropping of the ego when we fall in love with someone or something other than ourselves, accompanies the jump from the instinctive to the emotional level; a satori or eureka! experience announces our transition to the intellectual level; and cosmic consciousness signals the arrival at the philosophic level. While there is great relief with each graduation, cosmic consciousness is the one most associated with bliss.

The distribution of states of being is pyramidal, with the largest number of people in the instinctive level and so on up the pyramid. The incidence of graduation experiences is likewise distributed. We hear of many more cases of salvation experience than satori, and Richard Bucke estimated that only one in a million reach cosmic consciousness. Cases going beyond cosmic consciousness to the ultimate realization or recognition are even rarer.

Those who experience one of the lesser realizations rejoice justly at their good fortune, but it's very easy to get sidetracked by them. It may be that those individuals who approach nonindividuality through first recognizing their nothingness are liable to get stuck in the conceptual realization of no-self, while those who approach it through first recognizing their oneness with everything are liable to get stuck in the emotional realization of bliss. In any case, our essential nature is beyond all thought and feeling. Feelings and conceptual realizations are out here on the periphery, not at our center, and identification with them or attachment to them prevents full satisfaction of our innermost desire.

Bliss is like the nacre on the inside of an oyster shell: it's beautiful to look at, but it's not the pearl beyond price.


If a man says something, and his wife isn't there to hear it...is he still wrong?

man kicking back and relaxing


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