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

TAT Forum

July 2015



Convictions & Concerns

TAT members share their personal convictions and/or concerns

Mental Traps

I was recently told that it is important to be willing to tolerate alternative viewpoints. This statement, in itself, seems nearly content free. If I am already willing, then telling me that I should be willing does not provide me with any new information. If I am not willing, then it conveys an alternative viewpoint to mine, which, of course, I am not willing to tolerate. I want to consider both of these cases. Let's take the latter one first.

This is the epitome of a closed mind, one that is not only closed to alternative viewpoints, but in the extreme is even closed to the possibility of contemplating alternative viewpoints. It is easy to see this as a trap, one that can be very effective, particularly if one's ultimate fate relies on remaining closed. I was placed in this trap at a young age and it wasn't until my mid-30s that I was finally released. In my case, the trap consisted of the doctrine of original sin, and the consequent sinful nature. Intrinsic to this belief is the mistrust of ourselves, so our doubts are untrustworthy as well. Therefore, any challenge to the core belief can be deflected. In my case, it wasn't until I had developed enough experience, intellectual courage, and dissatisfaction that the belief was weakened to the point I could challenge it honestly. It only required a simple question: "Who holds the belief?" and the will to know the answer.

The answer to the question, of course, was "me," at least the same "me" as the belief told me was untrustworthy. You see the internal inconsistency here. It was me believing that "me" can't be trusted, yet I had trusted that belief (and by extension the "me" that believed it) for over two decades. I decided to resurrect that faith I had in me, at least enough to start over again and ask the question "Who am I?" with a willingness to trust myself with the answer.

I want to return to the first case now, of the one willing to tolerate alternative viewpoints. This mental orientation has become a cultural mantra, with a collective affirmation that can act as a siren song. And like numberless other cultural norms, its unreality is masked by seemingly universal acceptance. This is another trap, although far more subtle than the first. It is a trap because it maintains our focus on the level of mental deliberation. Let me further explain by stepping outside the details of these traps to look at what they both have in common.

These traps share the belief that there is a proper, true, realistic opinion and that our objective is to hold that opinion. The central problem is not in the opinion held, but in the nature of opinion itself. There is no correct opinion precisely because the nature of correctness, of truth, of reality is not the nature of opinion. What we have traditionally called "truth" is simply a category constructed within the abstract system of thought we exhibit, and it may be that one opinion can be shown to conform more closely to that abstract construct than another given certain goals and assumptions, but that does not get us any closer to reality.

Using the analogy of a stream where the current takes us where we want to go, there are eddies of thought that can capture us, keeping us out of the current, turning us around and around.

"Rapid Under Rawfold Bridge" by Andy Waddington, from Wikimedia Commons

Any boater knows that to get out of an eddy, you point your boat at an angle upstream and into the current, stroke forward and lean downstream. It is not much different with our minds. We direct our attention away from the recurring thoughts and "lean" downstream, keeping our focus of attention on the present.

To the extent that I have encountered reality, I have noticed two abilities at play, attention and recognition. The first is something I can improve through practice and is exercised proportional to my desire to see. The second happens automatically when reality is experienced. At the confluence of attention and recognition is grace.

~ Dean Nelson has been an active TAT member since 2010. He welcomes your .


TAT Foundation News

It's all about "ladder work" – helping and being helped

TAT Meeting News

June TAT weekend feedback:

The Friday evening session began with an exercise called The Only Two Things That Matter. Our days are filled with things that we do, big and small, so this was an opportunity to sort through that stuff and figure out for ourselves, what matters for us and what really doesn't. After coming up with a personal list, the group then split into pairs to look deeper into the thinking behind the choices made.

Saturday morning featured a talk and question and answer session with Bob Harwood. Bob has written two books about non-duality since his awakening in 1999: A Path to Christ-Consciousness: Non-Conceptual Awareness Practice as a Doorway to the Infinite, and Pouring Concrete, A Zen Path to the Kingdom of God. His talk centered on his path during the years that he was the seeking, up through his realization and life afterwards.

The weekend featured three sessions in which the speakers were seekers telling their stories. It was a unique opportunity to hear people over a broad range of ages, circumstances and experiences talk about their Quest.

Whether they spoke of new insights or old obstacles; with uncertainty or with the conviction that follows a spiritual breakthrough, the "seeker-speakers" were well received. During the weekend wrap-up several people suggested including a "Telling Their Story" session at future TAT meetings.

Another highlight of the 2015 June TAT Gathering was an opportunity to get out of our heads and onto our feet for a walking meditation led by Bob Harwood. The idea, he told us, as we strolled the grounds of the historic Claymont Estate, is to Attend The Actual without thoughts. He calls it - ATA minus T. Bob suggested that as we walk, we let our awareness relax and expand. The goal is to allow direct perception of experience to occur without thought intervening; to encourage non-conceptual awareness. ~ Michael Whitely

I really enjoyed hearing members tell their stories. It gave everyone a chance to know them better than ever happens in the limited one-on-one conversations in the busy-ness of a meeting – and everyone got to listen all at once. ~ Bob Cergol

The meeting, nestled between mountain, field and forest had the gentle camaraderie of old friends joining together after many years apart. ~ Nathan Lippi

The recent TAT June Gathering, entitled "Friendship and the Spiritual Search," was an excellent and refreshing opportunity to participate in the Life aspect of the Three Fold Path to Enlightenment. The weekend was conducted with focus and sincerity, and the intention and commitment to friendship was evident throughout the gathering. Most systems that teach "spirituality" or religion start with the premise that the teacher knows the truth and you need to learn how to hear or see or feel, how to accept and believe, what is being presented to you, but TAT operates from the premise that the individual seeker needs to discover the Truth for oneself, and teachers and fellows can only help show the way to Self-discovery. ~ Bill Racine

It was a great meeting! ~ Philip Franta

It was a great weekend – to steal someone else's comment, there was an intimacy to it. The format helped people get to know each other and to explore where they are in their search. And I think it helped to have a relatively large number of people participate; it made it more like a retreat.

The TAT weekend was true to its theme of "Friendship and the Spiritual Search." Bonds were formed and renewed; experiences on the path were shared; and there was a coming together in a fundamental way over the course of the weekend. And then there was the Bob Harwood koan: "Who's the friend you've known forever that you meet for the first time?" Thank you, Bob! ~ Mark Seabright

In the first morning session guest speaker Bob Harwood shared the story of his seeking years. He gave the impression of a relentlessly curious, questioning mind during those years. Yet at some point, he came upon the practice of withdrawing energy and attention from thought. He would take long walks in nature. Much as Eckhart Tolle describes, as energy and attention are reclaimed from the obsession of thought, presence is more likely to occur.

On an optional meditative walk that afternoon, participants were challenged to "Attend the Actual" – to perceive sights, sounds, smells, feeling sensations, without the usual mental activity of labeling. This practice Mr. Harwood calls "attending the actual minus T," the minus T meaning "without thought." [The distinction was made with the mindfulness practice (Attending the Actual plus T) of noticing all phenomena, including thought. In Mr. Harwood's approach, we endeavor to notice/observe without any labeling/mental activity.] Perceiving without labeling is to me the main challenge when performing "direct-path" experiments; the mind almost always fills the moment or scene with its "knowing," to the point where nothing new has space to be felt or noticed.

As the notion of withdrawing attention from thinking already appeals to my intuition, Mr. Harwood's pointer has value and is of interest. In the meditative walk, mind was quieter than usual and an internal reminder to "pay attention" seemed to pop up frequently. In the ensuing week, as I continue to use the pointer while jogging, driving, walking, etc, the "reminder pop-ups" seem to be less frequent.

To me, it's a helpful pointer – and one that anyone can use at any time. ~ Eric Clark

I think TAT outdid itself with this set of seeker-speakers presentations. Bob Harwood gave a keynote address, so filled with wisdom, joy and humor, that it focused what had preceded it and what followed. The retreat began Friday afternoon and ended on Sunday after lunch, last minute hugs, email exchanges, smart phone photos, and so on. It was hard to leave, but some of us had planes to catch.

Seasoned senior teachers (like Bob Cergol, etcetera) were superb, and so was Shawn P., more recently arrived among them. Paul Constant was there, as always, embodying (and leading) the formal meditation and rapport sessions, but the main thing was that everyone was there, and in rapport, present, engaged throughout the whole weekend, and all of us, so united in purpose and in the spirit of "Friendship" that we did meet in that "narrow crevice" and … we did "bond." It was magical, "before the backdrop of eternity," even in the humidity of Charles Town, WV. And, I think none of us will ever forget it. ~ Catherine Morrison

I've been aware of TAT since 2011 and for years have been working closely with a long-time member in Colorado along with our local Self Inquiry Group. I made the commitment to myself to attend a TAT weekend at the beginning of the year and the June TAT gathering provided the opportunity to follow through.

I was greeted upon entering the mansion and was shown around the property. There was immediate rapport, which was strong, and lasted all weekend. My sense was that everyone was singular in their purpose for attending and thus the connectedness. My mind shut off, and I was able to fully engage in the exchanges with other members. There was a broad range of ages and backgrounds of those in attendance, and hearing different perspectives on what's worked and what hasn't was useful.

The folks who gathered were some of the most sincere, kind individuals that I've ever encountered. There was no pretense, and even when we questioned one another, the tone was steady and aimed at being helpful to those who were inquiring into themselves.

I'm grateful that I attended and am open to discussing my experience with others who are considering attending and have questions they'd like addressed. ~ Jason Shimkos

I particularly enjoyed the opportunity of being with a spiritual teacher I had not previously met. The group was very friendly and welcoming and of course the venue was beautiful. I am glad we have found TAT (which we found through an interview of Tess Hughes on Conscious TV). ~ Elaine Cooperman

Honestly, the June meeting was my best ever. I really appreciated the "seeker stories" as it was like having a conversation with every speaker. I got to have actual conversations with everyone at the meeting, since there were only about 20 people there. I usually don't have specific questions, but this time a few came up. After leaving, I experienced a very gradual return to normal over several days, which is slower than usual. This time I had a greater sense of acceptance (presence) and cessation of thinking for longer.

Bob Harwood was great, and I really appreciated talking with Shawn Pethel who I have known for years and was so grateful for his insight. During my own turn on the hot seat, I had a much greater than usual arising of emotion connected to my own story. I attribute that to the fact that I take it less and less to be a story and more a description of what is happening. I didn't prepare for this talk, at least not consciously, I just let whatever came up come out.

So, I want to say something that can be shared in the forum if you think it fits. The primary focus of Bob Harwood's presentation and discussion was a movement away from representational thought toward the awareness of what is without the filter of thought. Bob took us on a walk in which he asked us to simply attend to our perceptions without interpretation by the mind, a return to a child's mind. He called it attending the actual minus thought. I very much appreciate this affirmation of what I have come to label the fundamental problem of thinking or "abouting." Thoughts are never the things in themselves, rather they are representational, they are about the things in themselves. In this way, thought is an illusion. Although the thoughts themselves are real, we can experience them directly, what they are about is an illusion. I am living in a world of abstraction, separated from reality. It is at the same time emotionally painful, frustrating and hilarious. ~ Dean Nelson

I had been to TAT weekends long ago, and having returned now years later I expected to again join fellow seekers who would share their experiences. Instead, I experienced the unexpected: these seekers weren't as much my peers as my would-be teachers. Insightful presentations of their journey and struggles to find self-definition made me feel my own search was more a hobby compared to their experiences and commitment to Go Within.

I later found at home scrawled in my notes: "advanced souls on the path." ~ Bill King

Many thanks to the many speakers at the June TAT meeting. The theme might have equally have been the "law of the ladder" in practice. From the initial session with Mike Whitely on "What Matters," to Bob Harwood's talk and walk teaching "Attending the Actual," the many seeker stories, and the sittings with Paul Constant, those in attendance gained meaningful insights as well as learning approaches and techniques taken by others on their paths from that may accelerate their own searches. In addition, the size of the meeting made it possible for all to contribute and interact over the weekend in a spirit of close cooperation and friendship. Again, many thanks to all. ~ Mike Gegenheimer

SAVE THE DATE: The TAT Fall Gathering will be Friday-Monday, September 4-7, 2015.

Local Group News

Update from the San Francisco Bay area self-inquiry group:
One of our recent meetings had the topic "Keeping one iron in the fire." Though he was unable to attend, Shankar sent some thoughts about keeping focus:

Hi Shawn,

I wish I could have come today but I am not well. But I have thought for a while about keeping the iron on the fire.

I feel that there are a few things that help me keep the iron on the fire.

1. Faith

Sometimes when we read a spiritual book or hear someone speak, we deeply feel that there is some truth in what they are saying without any previous knowledge of what is said by them. Then we put our faith on their teachings and further explore the truth. In my experience, I noticed that if we are truly committed to the truth we make progress with great certainty. The progress could be noted in the gradual purification of the mind. Progress could be noted in the perseverance to find the truth itself. If these are not happening, then the fact is our commitment to the faith, and our reasoning and inquiry into the faith and the truth are insufficient. Simply said, we have not put the iron on the fire long enough. We simply have the external things of our life dominating our energies, which energy you note as the currency of our life. This is my repeated personal experience.

I always noted that the lack of progress was due to lack of sufficient time spent investigating, contemplating and meditating. In my opinion, the time spent on endless books and videos was the least productive. I decided to spend most of my time on this faith. If great saints came before us in physical form and spoke the truth, then there must certainly be something we are missing.

2. Finding Evidence

I actually found out that unless we noted down when we slept and when we woke up, we cannot really know how many hours we slept. This proved to me that time was absent during sleep, and mind was also absent during sleep. I felt there must be some connection between mind and time. I also noted during 45 minute meditations that time was absent. There were as many as 20 or so thoughts (I did not count, but felt almost not there) during the entire 45 minutes. I knew I meditated 45 minutes only by noting down start and end times. So I found that this further linked time and mind.

I also thought if a person is left in a completely dark room for many days, then the person cannot know how much time has passed. I somehow intuitively felt that the passage of time is felt only through activity of the mind and the senses. During sleep if mind was absent, how did I remember that I slept? I asked. Did I recall sleeping as the memory of the past event? If mind was absent, then how is it possible to have a memory of sleep? I suddenly felt that the sense of I AM was always there even during sleep. The same sense I AM was there during meditation. I also noted down that I could not recall many of my childhood memories; even the memories about a movie I saw a few years before. I felt that memories were unreliable. If they were unreliable, they are pretty useless anyway. I simply decided to forget naturally all of the past as much as I could. I could not reason out why the waking state is a dream state with absolute clarity, yet. For example, the dream state as far as I could remember rarely repeats, but in the waking state I can reliably grow a tree to its full lifetime by repeatedly watering it (although the tree is growing and changing all the time). Maybe the sense of reliable repetition was itself an illusion, and I felt I needed to investigate that. I took on the full extent of the impact of the statement that the mind/body principle is an illusion. I felt that if this was true I may have to constantly, but gently remind myself of this as much as possible. This will increase the remembrance and help me act according to that constant remembrance. Hence over time, I felt that I could not make any sense of society, or human love, or money, career, etc.. They all appeared clearly less meaningful, other than for the purpose of sustaining life in the physical body.

My questions were clearly: Is time a creation of the mind?
Is space also a creation of the mind? Are we part of a space-time illusion?

I felt that as long as I focused on anything other than I AM, I was only nurturing what is other than I AM. So I strived to see how practically difficult it is to focus on I AM. I found that it was incredibly difficult. I found that the mind has such a power over our Life, and I constantly focused on striving to see why the illusion is so solid. The more I meditated and studied and investigated the spiritual texts and truth, the more I saw the illusion as illusion. While absolute clarity is absent, it is at least clear to me that it is clearly worthwhile to keep the iron on the fire as much time as possible.

I continue to investigate, meditate and contemplate the truth. While I do that, I notice that the world appears very unreal and is falling away. By this I mean all attachments drop and sometimes attachments are noted as attachments. I also learn that the less I contemplate about things of the world, the less they drain the energy. The world I discover is indeed strange because it is very, very quiet. A world I could not even imagine in a mentally and physically vigorous life such as I used to live. The mind constantly throws some trick or the other to prevent progress, so I use a default way of completely ignoring the mind when I note a specific thought.

Occasionally, I felt difficulty in living a very quiet life because I am not used to it, but I also saw the fickle nature of constant mental activity. So I wanted to investigate if the difficulty of the quiet life was only because I was conditioned. Perhaps I got used to constant mental activity in the past, so being mentally quiet appeared "unnatural"? Indeed, I found that this was the truth. Quietness was the natural state. Only thoughts about being quiet created a strange sense of anxiety. This was conditioning created by heavy mental activity from the past.

I have now gradually moved out of Facebook, LinkedIn, and WhatsApp and my phone itself is silent almost all the time. I felt these were more harmful than ever to the spiritual work because they increase mental activity and strengthen the illusion of body mind principle.

Thank you so much,


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"One thing you must be able to do in the midst of any
experience is laugh. And experience should show you that it
isn't real, that it's a movie. Life doesn't take you seriously,
so why take it seriously." ~ Richard Rose, Carillon

Lemur meditation retreat? (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

We're hoping to present humor created by TAT members and friends here. Please your written or graphic creations. Exact sources are necessary for other submissions, since we need to make sure they're either in the public domain or that we have permission to use them.


Inspiration & Irritation

Irritation moves us; inspiration provides a direction

On Ego
From "Epilogue: Some Practical Reflections"
The Mystical Mind: Probing the Biology of Religious Experience
Eugene d'Aquili and Andrew B. Newberg

"The reader may have noticed a hesitancy on the part of the authors to jump to the conclusion that, since we have a megatheology [i.e., a theological theory that transcends any individual theology] derived from neurotheology [i.e., based on neuroscience studies], why not let everyone use it as the basis for constructing a personal theology.

"Our hesitancy derives from a bit of wisdom possessed by all the world's great religions, namely, that the greatest enemy of access to the divine or to wisdom or to enlightenment is ego.

"Ego is rapacious, self-seeking, hedonistic, acquisitive, materialistic, and above all else, proud.

"The best, the truest, and the wisest in all the great religious traditions know this fact well and attempt to protect their novices on the path to the divine.

"The lone individual, even with the best and most empirically derived megatheology as a base, is in grave danger of constructing a personal theology that ends in the worship and love of the ego rather than of God.

"This is not to state that the venture of constructing a meaningful and nourishing personal theology is impossible. But it is a path marked by significant dangers.

"Perhaps the best advice that can be given to anyone embarking on such an intensely lonely journey is to familiarize himself or herself with the mystical literature of all the great religious traditions, thereby avoiding at least most of the pitfalls that have been noted and charted by mystics who have gone before."


Have you constructed a personal set of beliefs that unintentionally worship and love the ego-self? Please your responses.

(This is a 3-minute animated video.)

Do you agree with Zucker's conclusion from René Descartes that "I think, therefore I am" answers the question of existence? Please your responses.


~ Thanks to Lou Francis, a TAT member for several years. She welcomes your .


Reader Commentary

Encouraging interactive readership among TAT members and friends

A reader wrote that what would make the Forum more interesting would be:

Hearing from people who are searching – and have questions instead of those providing endless advice and "answers." What challenges they are facing. What their doubts and questions are. How they perceive their path is going. What they are doing in their lives. Where they think they will end up. Etc. etc.

Can you help make the Forum more interesting?

The Listening Attention

The Forum staff solicited feedback on TAT Press's fifth book, The Listening Attention published in 2010.

From Tess Hughes:
The Listening Attention by Bob Fergeson is the book I recommend to new-comers to self-inquiry with me, for a few reasons.

It's a short book written in a clear simple style. I think this is a wonderful book in that the subject matter, which is often difficult to communicate and understand at first, is presented in such a readable form here. He explains what is meant by such terms as: going within, self-definition, self-discovery, listening attention, self-observation, final realisation, True direction, Becoming and so on. These are terms used by Richard Rose and in later TAT writings, so this book is also a great introduction to the TAT way of communicating the perennial message.

The book consists of twenty-four short essays, the last one, which is titled "Tricks" gives a few suggestions on how to set about ones own journey of self- inquiry. "All tricks are for destroying the ego-centric fantasy that we actually exist, as the body/mind or anything else for that matter, and for freeing us from believing that there is such a thing as an individual "self".

From Robert T. Taylor:
We all know that someone who is much more than they appear, deeper than the eye perceives. Clearly this is the case with the author of this book. I believe that those who seek the truth find it. The Listening Attention addresses life's most pressing questions about our place in the universe. What I liked most about it was the transparent glimpse into one man's honest quest – warts and all – into life's most profound mysteries and truths.

From Vicki Woodward:
The Listening Attention is a compelling little book. Bob Fergeson presents his ideas in a clear and uncompromising way. He opens the door to self-awareness and gives us a look inside. He is writing about how to escape the prison of the ego and if that is even possible. First we must know what prison feels like. This is the first step out.

Fergeson draws on the key ideas of Richard Rose, who has influenced him heavily. He also shares wisdom from Vernon Howard, William Samuel and G. I. Gurdjieff. These evolved men left clues about how to rid oneself of the illusion that we are real and in charge of so-called "life." It is a slow and painful work we embark on when we come to study our own consciousness. Fergeson calls it the listening attention.

This is a book of integrity salted with insight and personal admissions. Fergeson clearly practices what he preaches and gives us examples of how his inner work proceeded. He shows us that the listening attention, is indeed, a gateway to within.

From Sharon Tanner:
This is an awesome book for anyone truly seeking. It offers explanations, wisdom and practical tips on the road to releasing the false self. Highly recommended!

From David Weimer:
This is a thin book of wisdom. Invaluable to encounter for those who have embarked on a journey of discovery into their nature and a search for the ultimate meaning of their existence.

Can any ultimate answer to life's biggest question be found? Probably not, most say. Can a mythical ultimate condition – enlightenment – be experienced by the common man? Umm … doubtful, is the consensus.

Regardless of opinions, most people have felt profound moments where they sensed that there must be something transcendent in this reality called "My life." The Listening Attention's author shares findings from his own life's quest, provokes thinking with his unique observations on human-ness and most of all, shares a glimpse of how he views this place, this world.

So buy the book! It's not expensive and what's inside is worth taking the time. I was surprised. If you're a seeker of something solid – you know not what – I hope that you find this book, at least.

Please send us your brief reviews or feedback on something that stood out for you in the TAT Press book At Home with the Inner Self for next month's Reader Commentary.

Richard Rose described a spiritual path as living one's life aimed at finding the meaning of that life. Did you find anything relevant to your life or search in this month's Forum issue?


Bog Oak Sculpture / photo by Tess Hughes


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Founder's Wisdom

Richard Rose (1917-2005) established the TAT Foundation
in 1973 to encourage people to work together on what
he considered to be the "grand project" of spiritual work

Zen Is Action (Part 6 of 6)

Continued from the February 2015 TAT Forum through the June 2015 TAT Forum:

Q and A continues

Q. You spoke of emotional religion. Could you talk about the transitions you went through and the events that affected you?

R. I got stuck in the emotional thing when I was about twelve years of age. I loved my mother and she was a Catholic, and I thought she was infallible, like the Pope. Because all mothers are, especially good mothers; you put your trust in them. So I went away to be a priest, and that was the emotional thing. I thought I would find God, and God would be a lovely creature.

But I found out that these people were just humans, very miserable humans. There were one or two saints among them; the rest of them idiosexuals, two were homosexuals, who the priesthood had warped and twisted because they just couldn't adapt to total celibacy. So I thought, "Hey, there's something wrong. Where's God? Is he watching this stuff?" Then I noticed that they had a brutality about them. They didn't want you questioning them. Like you people are asking me questions – they didn't want that. You had to believe. I was just a kid, twelve years old when I went there, and If you didn't believe, you got your face slapped for being a Doubting Thomas.

The result was that later I got to studying some other books and looking elsewhere. And I went through the whole gamut. I went into Spiritualism, groped around until I found a genuine materialization.[1] And I saw the illogic of that. But there were entities, believe me. Don't ever get the idea that we're alone on this planet. I don't know how dense it is, but there are other intelligences here. Some of them can become visible. This is not fiction; I've literally seen it, and witnessed an intelligence from them. These weren't dead people; they were what they call cabinet guides.[2] There's a whole story to it; I mention it in The Albigen Papers.[3]

But I tried by sheer force of logic to develop an approach to the mind. This is a very good way to get into your essence: study your own mind and observe your own thoughts. The little book that I wrote called Psychology of the Observer is just such an exercise. You watch all phases of thinking. And if you watch your own thought you become an external observer, more and more.

It's like with Hubert Benoit in The Supreme Doctrine.[4] What we have is a bipolar mind: good and evil, black and white, all this sort of thing. These are creations of the relative mind. In reality there is no such thing as black and white. All we have is a scale, somewhere between two extremes. If you put black and white on a straight line, in-between you're going to get all different shades of gray. So you don't have clear-cut, hard definitions.

But the observation of your thinking processes, if you pursue it, takes you to a point where your head explodes. I always say that the spiritual path is fattening up the head until it's filled enough with data, and then you can chop it off. I'm talking about killing the mind, or stopping thinking: out of pure frustration it just stops. And in that moment when it stops, everything enters.

Now I don't know whether that answers your question. But between the seminary and the realization I finally had, there was quite a bit of exploration, looking into cults and joining the yogis.[5] I was a vegetarian, I didn't smoke, I was totally celibate. And at times I thought, "This is a goofball adventure I'm on. I'd better quit and get married, because who in the hell is going to have me after a few more years of this?" But I didn't quit. I'd always be back on track. I'd walk down the street and find myself in the library, reading another book and starting all over, maybe looking up some guru. There were some good people. I criticize a lot of the movements but there were some good ones, people who were sincere.

Q. I was thinking that education was sort of the problem. But you're saying to look into different cults and to experience things. What's the difference between that and education?

R. Basically I advise everybody to look under every rock. That isn't necessarily education. I don't mean somebody brainwashing you from the front of the room and saying, "Multiply two times two and four times four." That's what I found in chemistry. The guy says, "This is the way you work this chemical equation." I say, "Why?" He says, "Because of the valence." I couldn't understand what he was talking about. I still don't. But I knew how to look at the cookbook, the chemical handbook. You could do whatever they told you to do and it would come out the way they predicted. So a chemist is just a man who knows how to consult the handbook.

That's called education. But what I'm talking about, looking under rocks, that's the real education. That is experience, first-hand knowledge. When I say under every rock I mean every sect. If your intuition tells you, "Hey, maybe these people have something," okay, go to the bother to check them out. Check them out, and don't lack the courage to move on. As I said, they're here for a purpose. But I'm always afraid they're here for the purpose of inhibiting progress rather than promoting it.

The greatest spiritual events that happen in a person's life don't come from a glorious diploma. It comes from misery and agony and despair. And then the light that shines afterwards makes it all worthwhile.

Q. What stage are we in when we realize that there are no answers at all?

R. You're in a lazy stage. [laughs] You should never give up. Never give up.

Q. Did your enlightenment experience tell you where you're going to go when you die?

R. You'll know what happens, yes.

Q. If a person has a negative state of mind, outside of exploring that stage, is there something he can do to change that?

R. I don't know what you mean by a negative state of mind. A negative state of mind could be philosophically negative, that you've got appetites that are negative to advancement. But if you know what they are then you know how to circumvent them. Because in anything of that sort the symptoms are all germane to you; they're all privy to your memory and your knowledge of your past.

I don't know what's negative. A lot of times, things that people think are negative are really positive. For instance when I was in my twenties, as I told you, I'd get disgusted because there were no lights, no bugles, no angels. And I'd think, "I'm not spiritual. I'd better pick myself a girl and get married." But they wouldn't have me. And then I thought, "Geez, what kind of a curse is on me?" I had hair then, you know. But years later I felt, "My, what a blessing." Because if I had gotten married, that would have been the end of it. My ear would have been attuned to squalling babies; there would have been no room for any thinking. You've got to think when you come home from work.

But I should bring this out: Rose was not self-made. I had help. And I realized this in my experience, that there was something that led me every step of the way. I really wanted the obstacles, I wanted the girl. I never had the desire to drink or anything like that. You'd project on some bit of protoplasm and think it was superior. I wrote a little poem about it:[6]

[Man creates with his imagination and shouts:]
      "This is my all, my god, my soul.
      "This is mine."
Better say of this choice nebula of dust,
      "Beautiful is this fond mirror of my lust."

Q. Do you feel like there are still things for you to learn?

R. Mmm, I've learned a lot, the things I've experienced in the last fifteen years. In fact I got surprised when little things came up like healing. And you learn more about teaching as a job in itself. For instance, when I come before an audience I have to be able to speak in your language. And you may sense there's a difficulty. Because everybody wants to know, "Please explain to me, give me a picture, paint it on the wall, what this experience is." And then it's, "Okay, now give me the prescription. I'll go down to the drugstore or whatever it takes and I'll take the pills." They want to make everything objective and material. And you can't do this. That's the reason for those koans I read.[7] It's more important to me that you start thinking, not just ask things that you're going to forget tomorrow.

But if you get that little lecture of questions and read it once in awhile, it's going to cause you to think. Because it's looking at life from another view, and not just another view, it's a more accurate view. I believe that those questions are valid, such as "What is thought?" We are thinking all the time, and we just take for granted that we know what thought is.

Q. What do you feel were the five most important questions, from your perspective?

R. I have no perspective on them. I think they're all important.

Q. You mentioned that you're doing things in West Virginia; what's the nature of that?

R. I write books. We have a farm there where people come and stay. We've got cabins where they can go meditate or starve to death or do whatever they want to do.

Q. Is it organized or more like a free-structure, individual thing?

R. Well first of all they have to be sincere. Then of course people come for different reasons. For instance there's the TAT Foundation, for TAT members. They become members and that helps sustain the physical plant. And then there are people who just do as they please, and by that I mean they're what you call friends of the truth, but not members. They're just damn good people and we love to have them. But then there's a school, which I consider the root. The whole basis of the thing are the people who are really trying to find it. And those are the ones I'm looking for, because that's the maximum purpose for my being. I enjoy the people who are friendly and all that, but my life is dedicated to people where there's some hope of getting them across, and getting them to pass it on to somebody else.

We had a girl come one time, I don't know how old she was, maybe twenty; she and her husband came down. We'd have these rapport sittings and she had an experience. It surprised me, because number one, she didn't want her husband attending. She was a little bored. And she didn't like me, because I was too blunt perhaps. So we went into another room and sat, like Quakers or Shakers, to wait for the Holy Ghost or whatever you want to call it. It's a power that hits you. She stayed in the kitchen until it was almost over. There was a man there, with his wife, and this thing was settling on him.

When these things happen you don't need any further proof. You know where you're at, you know you're exactly on track. Sometimes I hate to talk about this because it seems like very few people believe it. But in the final essence I shouldn't care whether people believe it or not. Anyway, this is what happens in a rapport meeting. I can see, generally, a spiritual force. The closest I can describe it is the Holy Ghost. "Where two or more are gathered together in my name, I am in their midst."[8] This happens when people get together with an honest and sincere intention, with no other motive than just to find something, to find truth. This power generates, not every time but occasionally, if everybody's right. We generally sit in a circle and it will move around, and I'll know who it's going to stop on and I'll point. Sometimes it knocks them off their chair. That's what happened with her. It was over Frank and she walked into the room and it leaped across, just like a voltage. It leaped across and hit her and knocked her down.

This type of meeting requires a certain lifestyle and dedication. You can't come in half drunk and that sort of thing, and sit down in such a meeting. So it's the group of people that matters. I know the ones who are dead-serious, and if they are, then that's all I need to know. But those are the ones who have access to the cabins, if they want to stay there. The people in the group yet today take a solid month off. I don't tell them. I don't tell anybody what to do. I have no rules, no doctrine. I just say that if you want to get a result, try this. I never had to tell them the second year, and they've been doing it for years. Every year they take a month off, go to the cabin and sit there for a solid month. No rules. And they invariably come out with a new perspective. Because they see how the last twelve months had been a gradual deterioration into nature.

So that's what goes on. Other than that, I'm not aware of what you're curious about, but if you ask me I'll try to explain it. I do believe that there's a predictability about this, and a person isn't around me very long before I know what their susceptibility is to something developing.

Q. Is it predictable relative to effort applied?

R. Umm, sometimes it's weird, sometimes it's strange. Now this girl didn't care for what we were doing. She could have cared less. It surprised me as much as it did her and the group. She was antagonistic. I don't know why she even came into the room. But we've had other cases similar to that, where the first time a person sits in a group something happens to them. And for that person it's like a milepost; you realize that you're on a path. There are revelations. But they're not verbalized. And you find a peace of mind, a tranquility, that you'll never find any other way. I shouldn't say any other way; there are possibly rapport meetings in churches that are just as good.

But we have that one peculiar method, you might say. This isn't Zen, incidentally. It's just something we decided to do, some of the people. And it worked. Now with this girl it was traumatic, very traumatic. But she didn't get clear through to what I consider the final step. There's a final realization that she didn't quite reach. She saw the world as an illusion. This is one of the things you learn down the road. Even if you study physics you find that there's no separation between space and time; they're a unity. We separate them because we're polar and bicameral. Our time is only germane to the sun. Somebody else's sun might go around more slowly, so we don't know what their consciousness would be. This is why I asked the questions earlier about duration.

I saw the need a long time ago for a place where people could go and think. I realized this when I was married. I was trying to write The Albigen Papers and I kept notes for it for five or ten years. It's very difficult when you have little children around to do any thinking. You've got to get out. I had a farm so I went out there. I always kept a few head of cattle to have some excuse to go out there and spend the winter.

I'm not very much in favor of ascetic monks. Because they start to play another game. Like the theologians trying to determine how many angels you can get on the point of a pin. That sounds ridiculous but nevertheless, theology is a tremendous lot that way. For instance, the Catholic Church got into all sorts of breakdowns of how many prayers you had to say to counter so many sins.

Number one, I don't believe in sin. People don't sin, they have accidents. They're used, they're abused. Not by other people but by the program they're thrust into in this life. People used to ask, "Don't you believe that you commit sins?" I say, "I'm too damn stupid to sin." I don't know what's right and wrong, in the absolute sense. What's right is you die. What's wrong is that you're alive, perhaps.

We can take one more question.

[No question.]

Time to head for the high chaparral. Well, I'm glad to have met all of you. Hope to see you again someday.

I'm in the Wheeling phone book, that's area code 304. Paul has it. If you've got a pencil, these books have the TAT address in it. The best way to get down there is to call somebody, to always let me know. The farm is 15 miles from Wheeling, so it's better for you to give a call and then we'll meet you in Wheeling and tell you the best way to get there. This time of year some of the roads aren't as good as others. In a big snow the ridges drift deep, so you come up Wheeling Creek. But if the creek is high you take the ridges.

Q. Thanks very much Mr. Rose, and everybody.

R. You're welcome. [Applause.] I appreciate it.


~ Transcript of a talk given by Richard Rose in Columbus, Ohio in February 1989. Transcription by Steve Harnish. For information on the transcription project .


[1] The materialization at White Lilly Chapel was in 1958 when Rose was 41.
[2] See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mediumship#Spirit_guide
[3] Chapters 2 and 3.
[4] Recap of ideas: http://www.selfdiscoveryportal.com/bzrecap.htm
[5] Rose studied yoga in his youth and later joined the Radha Soami sect (in the 1950s, after his experience in Seattle). See "Yoga: Hatha, Shabd & Raja": https://tatfoundation.org/forum2003-11.htm#1.
[6] From the poem "Epilogue" in Carillon: Poems, Essays & Philosophy of Richard Rose https://tatfoundation.org/carillon.htm.
[7] In parts 1 and 2 of this talk, beginning with the February 2015 TAT Forum.
[8] Matthew 18:20

Do you have a favorite quote from Richard Rose? Please it along with how you'd prefer to be identified.


A New Home for TAT

... A spot on earth where people can do retreats and hold
meetings; where the emphasis is on friendship and the search.

Current Status

As of the end of June, we have reached 70.5% of the fund-raising goal. Please keep your small donations coming; they truly add up. We need $11,200 to reach 75% of our goal, at which point we begin the search for a new property.

Other News

Your Amazon purchases are starting to add up! So far this year, we've raised $300 via Amazon. Each time you want to make a purchase on Amazon, follow this link (Amazon Purchases), or any other Amazon link on TAT's site. Add whatever you want to your cart, and a percentage of your purchase price is credited to TAT. It's easy and costs you nothing.

We've registered TAT with the eBay Giving Works program. Check out our Giving Works page. You can list an item there and can select TAT to receive a portion of your sale. Click on the "For sellers" link on the left side of that page for details.

To invest directly in the "Homing Ground" project, mail a check made out to the TAT Foundation (for instructions on mailing a check, please ). Or you can use PayPal (though we lose 2.2% of your gift to PayPal fees) by choosing the "Make a Donation" button below. TAT is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit educational organization and qualifies to receive tax-deductible contributions.

What's This All About?

For over 35 years, the TAT Foundation met on Richard Rose's farm, where he and the members created "a spot on earth upon which to meet. A homing ground...." TAT meetings, group retreats, and solitary retreats were a regular part of life at the ashram. Rose's desire to help others and to bring people together in a meditative surrounding, influenced two generations of spiritual seekers. Rose's farm was a sanctuary for many years, and a crucible. He once said it was like the desert—where you go to meet God.

In 2011, Rose's heir decided to use the property for another purpose, and TAT's lease was not renewed. We have since rented facilities for our four quarterly meetings. Yet, the desire to provide a greater service has been a frequent topic. Our dream is to create once again a space that encourages honesty, provides a crucible for spiritual development, and produces the next generation of spiritual seekers and finders.

To that end, TAT is raising $250,000 to find a new home. We envision a semi-rural facility, close to a university town, with a meeting hall seating up to 70 participants, kitchen and bath facilities, and a room for a live-in caretaker. Additionally, the facility would have one cabin for solitary retreats. Ideally, the property would border public lands to provide a buffer of quiet and solitude, and have enough acreage to allow for additional cabins, sleeping quarters, and facilities over time. A resident teacher, week-long retreats and intensives, public events and other activities are planned.



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