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

February 2008

This Month's Contents: The Good, the Bad, and the Innocent - Part 2 by Bob Fergeson | A Poem by Pattiann Rogers | The Final Hour by Art Ticknor | Words from Johannes Brahms | Humor

Editor's Note
by Shawn Nevins

TAT Forum Editors Pen First, thanks to those who sent comments last month and for those who "officially" subscribed. It was good to hear the work is appreciated. Another thank you goes to two readers who sent writing submissions.

This month, we have a Call for Papers. One of the central ideas of Richard Rose's Albigen System was the value of associating and working with fellow seekers. The Sangha, the Contractor's Law, and the Law of the Ladder were all expressions of "group work." In fact, Rose said that "the part of the path hardest to realize is that dealing with the brotherhood or school."

I invite you to share your experiences with group work. Perhaps you've started a discussion group, lived in an intentional community, simply met a few times a year with friends, or are even an inveterate loner. What were the highpoints, the struggles, the value, or the danger of helping and being helped by others? Send your submissions by February 29th to the .

The Good, the Bad, and the Innocent - Part 2, by Bob Fergeson

[This is a continuation of Bob's notes from his 2007 talk at the TAT Foundation's April Conference. Part 1 appeared in the January 2008 Forum. I encourage you to attend the April 2008 TAT meeting to see more of these fascinating speakers. —editor]

Let's look at some ways that can be the tap on the feet or the light on the backs of the knees to return us to a more direct way of seeing.

1st step towards change: moving from something that has no possibility, to a being that can change. From being stuck on the base line of desire/fear, to something capable of holding tension and direction.

I realized I had become that which I despised, and knew there had to be a different way of thinking to pull me out of the pattern of the experiencer being created through experience, that this along with other incidents of the listening attention, I knew this had to happen. I was too much in the tramp and lunatic to move. The problem was that I wasn't to the point of good householder enough to hold a straight line. This had to happen later, I had to get out of being a tramp and a lunatic, the trap of good/bad, before I could hold the listening attention long enough for anything to really happen. I couldn't yet hold tension, or question. These are the necessary first steps before we can walk a straight line. By trying to be good, I ended up bad.

Categories of lunatic, tramp, and good householder.

Lunatic or knucklehead as opposite of tramp or sleepyhead. Here we have the splitting process of the mind again.

Lunatic: false values. Makes the unimportant important and vice-versa. Cannot question his values, but insists that the world and others must change instead.

Fanatics, "if only" thinking. Parallels knucklehead; holds, or thinks he holds, tension, usually just a fanatical projection that's negative or opposed. Wants the world and everyone in it to come around to his way of thinking. Story of animal rights nut who wanted everyone 'thrown in jail' who didn't agree with his view. Undoubtedly thinks he's good, and punishing the bad.

"Means justifies the end."

"I'm changing the world."

"I'm God's helper or soldier."

Tramp: No values. Goes with the flow. Dharma bums. Easy does it. It's all good. Nothing to be done. We're all one. Advaita phrases that take one out of action. Line of least resistance. Parallels the sleepyhead, can't stand to hold or experience tension, could have come from environment that had harsh tension. Wants the world and everyone in it to just leave him alone, or coddle him.

Householder: knows that one must pay. Understanding of karma, and real values. Good moral animal. Isn't adverse to work or effort. Can question, can observe himself rather than just invent or project and believe. Can stand the shocks of seeing himself as he is. Can work with others, too. Has possibility of moving up, or changing.

2nd Step: holding and using tension or energy. Two examples of tension spoken of by Ouspensky: the one the tension of negative emotions when we try and push our ego against the circumstances of the world and therefore become negative. This energy is the energy we need to instead work with. Saving this energy through 'being still' and the focusing of the attention within, gives us the energy needed to promote insight. We can mis-use negative tension to uphold a drama or negative emotion, like with a boss or family member.

The tension of Self-observation is accomplished through this energy that we normally burn off in negative emotions.

Questioning as tension.

Patience as tension.

3rd Step: Turning the attention within.

The ability to see the difference between the inner and outer projections gives us the freedom to now know where 'within' is. We can turn the listening attention within and not confuse this with the inner world.

Idea of separation of inner and outer projections.

Inner: world of the brain and memory, experience. Based on the never ending loop of experience creating memory and emotion and then the memory and emotion creating thought which creates more experience, which defines the experiencer.

Outer: world projection as manifested through all. The outer world of the senses without the 'self' modification. No experiencer to add to the view. Not based on just the individual mind, but on the universal mind. Very seldom witnessed in and of itself.

We can't see one without the other. To see the outer one without the inner's coloring shows us how much we depend on the personality and experience to define. To get out of the good/bad trap, we must first see the difference between the inner and outer projections, and how we rely on the mind's interpretations to define not only reality, but ourselves, and thus discount our own seeing.

Role of obsessions and obsessive thinking and emotions in keeping us stuck in the mind.

Once we can see the difference between the inner and outer projections, we now know that going within is not just playing around inside the head or dreaming or analyzing, but is the turning of the listening attention inward towards the source of thought, to the unknown back of beyond, to the dark realm of the unmanifest which the mind sees as a blank.

tree The illustration with the elm tree is an example of the listening attention and the childlike awareness. This was instrumental in my defining and finding the listening attention. This example of the listening attention also shows the difference between the child and the old man. The old man can only think through experience.

"Once upon a time, two friends were having coffee together, looking out the window at the trees. One remarked that a certain tree was called a slippery elm, and that he could identify it without fail. Suddenly, a look of sadness crossed his face. "I can't look at that tree without seeing it as a 'slippery elm'." He had realized that words and thinking were his only view, that something important within him had been lost. The other friend had quite a different expression. He saw the trap his buddy was caught in, and had a glimpse of the way out. As he gazed at the tree, he noticed he could switch back and forth between two radically different views. One, the paradigm of words, thoughts, and feelings, laid a thick veil over the tree, declaring it was a concept based on experience. This was the view in which his friend was trapped. It was nearly solid, and kept the actual perception of the 'tree' hidden beneath a cloud of thought and memory. The other view, the one he realized he had almost forgotten, was one of wonder and clearness. There was no 'tree' or anything else, but there was. Everything was as new, but not differentiated. He knew not what he was looking at, but this in itself was all that was needed to know enough. The view was simple, obvious, and without description. It left room for possibility, being infinite in scope. There was no memory or experience to rob him of the moment.

He never forgot the gift of honesty his friend had given him. By admitting his dilemma of mind, the trap of ego and conditioning, the friend had shown him the trap of experience, and the freedom of the listening attention."

Experiment: have the audience pick an object, one without intense emotional associations, and have them look at it with the mind, to pick out what associations and definitions arise. Then, have them look at it without these associations, with the listening attention. Can they do it? What happened?

A Poem by Pattiann Rogers

"Achieving Perspective"

Straight up away from this road,
Away from the fitted particles of frost
Coating the hull of each chick pea,
And the stiff archer bug making its way
In the morning dark, toe hair by toe hair,
Up the stem of the trillium,
Straight up through the sky above this road right now,
The galaxies of the Cygnus A cluster
Are colliding with each other in a massive swarm
Of interpenetrating and exploding catastrophes.
I try to remember that.

And even in the gold and purple pretense
Of evening, I make myself remember
That it would take 40,000 years full of gathering
Into leaf and dropping, full of pulp splitting
And the hard wrinkling of seed, of the rising up
Of wood fibers and the disintegration of forests,
Of this lake disappearing completely in the bodies
Of toad slush and duckweed rock,
40,000 years and the fastest thing we own,
To reach the one star nearest to us.

And when you speak to me like this,
I try to remember that the wood and cement walls
Of this room are being swept away now,
Molecule by molecule, in a slow and steady wind,
And nothing at all separates our bodies
From the vast emptiness expanding, and I know
We are sitting in our chairs
Discoursing in the middle of the blackness of space.

And when you look at me
I try to recall that at this moment
Somewhere millions of miles beyond the dimness
Of the sun, the comet Biela, speeding
In its rocks and ices, is just beginning to enter
The widest arc of its elliptical turn.

Learn more at Rogers' website.

The Final Hour, by Art Ticknor

The underlying problem that plagues individual human existence is survival – or I should say non-survival. We suffer from a conviction of our vulnerability and the miserable feeling of unfulfilled desire that accompanies it. This vulnerability is reflected in our fear of failure or rejection, with their threat of overwhelming us. The ultimate failure or result of being overwhelmed is, we fear, our personal annihilation.

Fortunately, vulnerability is disposed of and desire is fulfilled when we recognize what we really are (which, mirabile dictu, is whole, complete and eternal). But that is just a possibility until discovered.

The project of discovery:

Recognizing what we truly are – which, as it turns out, is what we always have been and always will be; time is actually within us rather than vice versa – is merely a mental process of paring away the inessential to reveal the essence.

Ramana Maharshi reportedly accomplished the task within an hour as a teenager. He was walking home from school one day, was assailed by the feeling that he was dying, went home, lay down on the floor in his room, and asked himself what would remain when he died. The duration's about right, but most of the small number of people who pursue the project of self-discovery to its conclusion spend years or decades fooling around before getting down to that final hour. (A quarter century in my case.)

An example in microcosm of what gets in the way can often be seen in lesser projects. A friend was asked by another friend to proofread a book for publication. He jumped into it enthusiastically, even expanding the project to include page layout, font selection, writing style, and so on. He attacked the first chapter with a flurry of activity then got bogged down. When a deadline was eventually set for about three months from the beginning, he completed reviewing chapters two and three – altogether less than ten per cent of the book.

Similarly, once the search for self becomes a conscious project, we overcomplicate it, probably inflating it to match the size of our self-image. And then, being convinced that it's a potentially overwhelming task, we procrastinate working on it – making occasional flurries of dust when we're inspired then "forgetting" about it in the periods between inspiration, which tend to grow in duration.

The antidote is to work at the project each day. And if we miss a day, not using that as an excuse to prolong the rest period.

The work is really quite simple in a profound way. We feel the deep longing of unfulfilled desire as an emotional reminder. (This only takes an instant.) And we have a worded question, which probably changes over time, as an intellectual reminder. It will be some variation on the "Who or what am I?" question since our intuition tells us that salvation lies in self-definition. The work process, at heart, is one of observation, or looking.

That which we're looking for is what's looking. The subject of the search is never the objects that come into view, whether those objects of consciousness are apparently outside or inside. Thus paring away the inessential is a simple process of subtraction.

Each day we take up where we left off the day before. Eventually we will reach the core lie or pretense that generates the fog of illusion, and then the light of truth will dispel all vulnerability and unfulfilled yearning.

A Few Words from Johannes Brahms


"To realize that we are one with the Creator, as Beethoven did, is a wonderful and awe-inspiring experience. Very few human beings ever come into that realization and that is why there are so few great composers or creative geniuses in any line of human endeavor. I always contemplate all this before commencing to compose. This is the first step. When I feel the urge I begin by appealing directly to my Maker and I first ask Him the three most important questions pertaining to our life here in this world--whence, wherefore, whither? I immediately feel vibrations that thrill my whole being. These are the spirit illuminating the soul-power within, and in this exalted state, I see clearly what is obscure in my ordinary moods; then I feel capable of drawing inspiration from above, as Beethoven did. Above all, I realize at such moments the tremendous significance of Jesus' supreme revelation, 'I and my Father are One'. Those vibrations assume the forms of distinct mental images, after I have formulated my desire and resolve in regard to what I want--namely, to be inspired so that I can compose something that will uplift and benefit humanity--something of permanent value. Straightaway the ideas flow in upon me, directly from God, and not only do I see distinct themes in my mind's eye, but they are clothed in the right forms, harmonies and orchestration. Measure by measure, the finished product is revealed to me when I am in those rare, inspired moods, as they were to Tartini when he composed his greatest work--the Devil's Trill Sonata. I have to be in a semi-trance condition to get such results--a condition when the conscious mind is in temporary abeyance and the subconscious is in control, for it is through the subconscious mind, which is a part of Omnipotence, that the inspiration comes. I have to be careful, however, not to lose consciousness, otherwise, the ideas fade away."

Later in the same book, Brahms describes these experiences further to Abell and Joseph Joachim who was also present:

"I always have had a definite purpose in view before invoking the Muse and entering into such a mood; and as I pointed out to you before, contemplating what Goethe, Milton and Tennyson said stimulated by fantasy to a powerful degree. Then when I felt those higher Cosmic vibrations, I knew that I was in touch with the same Power that inspired those great poets and also Bach, Mozart and Beethoven. Then the ideas which I was consciously seeking flowed in upon me with such force and speed, that I could only grasp and hold a few of them; I never was able to jot them all down; they came in instantaneous flashes and quickly faded away again, unless I fixed them on paper. The themes that will endure in my compositions all come to me in this way. It has always been such a wonderful experience that, I never before could induce myself to talk about it--even to you Joseph. I felt that I was, for the moment, in tune with the Infinite, and there is no thrill like it. I can understand why the great Nazarene attached so little importance to this life. He must have been in much closer rapport with the Infinite force of the Universe, than any poet or composer ever was, and He, no doubt had glimpses of that next plane, He called 'Heaven'."

~ From the book Talks with Great Composers


"Hey, buddy," said the taxicab passenger, tapping the driver on the shoulder.

The driver screamed and lost control of the cab, nearly hitting a bus, jumping the curb and stopping just inches from a huge plate-glass window.

For a few moments, everything was silent. Then the driver said, "Man, you scared the daylights out of me!"

"I'm sorry," said the passenger. "I didn't realize a tap on the shoulder would frighten you so much."

"It's not your fault," the driver replied. "Today is my first day driving a cab. I've been driving a hearse for the last 25 years."

~ From Everyday Creativeness, Insights and Commentary by Stephen R. Covey

Reader Commentary

Your publication is much appreciated, and has brought many moments of courage and comfort in dark times. Please keep it coming. ~ A. F.

Hat's off to you guys for keeping up this website. I love the idea of a place where all can share their insights in hopes that it may help another in their search for the truth. ~ M.M.


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