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

June 2018 / More


Convictions & Concerns

TAT members share their personal convictions and/or concerns

The Pump of the Divine

"Tension is the prime element in any spiritual exaltation. Sometimes the tension is accumulated and unconsciously endured over a period of years... Life is tension at work." – Richard Rose

A trap affecting some spiritual seekers is having their practical ego centered first in spiritual work, rather than in the world. The personality has never developed to the point of being able to accomplish in the field of the mundane. This sets up a difficulty in later changing their being through spiritual endeavor, in moving up Jacob's ladder. This happens because they cannot set up a working opposition, and thus raise the tension or energy needed to change their being. We need the force of opposition in order for between-ness to work, to raise tension and eventually become objective to ourselves. This can be called the pump of the divine; the back and forth action between the opposites that generates force, that lifts us up. This cycling between success and failure, good and bad, silence and activity, work and rest, depression and elation, brings a certain inner accomplishment: the capacity for "doing," both out in the world and within.

If life first forms a practical ego centered in the family or job, a skill or hobby, or any practical action carried into actual manifestation through work and effort over the long term, then when the person becomes interested in spiritual work, a duality between spiritual seeking and life is set up as a functional working pair of opposites. The seeker will be grounded in life, and can then work with success towards developing their spiritual side. They will have something to observe. If they are living in an ego based entirely in seeking, having no practical life-based ego as an observable opposite, it is a sign they've never learned how to "do." They will be living in their imagination, and their response to resistance will be retreat or refusal, rather than to push through it. They have no ability to "work," whether in spiritual or worldly endeavors. Living in an imaginary world where they pick and choose what's real and what's not, when hard, sustained effort is needed, they always find a valid reason to stop. Any need for sustained effort in the face of resistance threatens their very existence, since it's based in concept rather than being.

The working tension of the divine pump of the opposites is thus never started. When opposites are encountered, the undeveloped personality will cop out. The habit of persevering despite resistance and threats to the ego will never be developed, but rather a routine of retreat and rationalization, which will keep them from developing a system of tension. When the going gets rough, they go into their heads.

The magic of between-ness is the ability to hold two opposite concepts or possibilities in the head at the same time, and let the resulting tension push us up into the conciliatory position, the apex of the triangle. This push of tension results in a greater state of being, capable of even greater tension and levels of becoming. The divine pump is up and working.

If the struggle with lack of meaning hasn't been resolved by years of spiritual "practice," systems and teachers, etc., the problem could lie in an inability to hold tension long enough to facilitate a change of being, rather than in the techniques themselves. Learning to keep moving despite resistance in any pursuit, whether it be a skill, hobby, job, meditation, or life in general, gives us the ability to hold tension, thus using between-ness to help move us up the ladder of being.

(Author's note: Thanks to my friend Alex in Denver, who first spoke of the pump and its benefits)

~ Thanks to Bob Fergeson, a longtime TAT member and student of Richard Rose. Check out Bob's websites The Mystic Missal (A Door to Ways and Means on the Spiritual Path), Nostalgia West spiritual photography site & The Listening Attention (A Gateway to Within). If you have comments for the TAT Forum, please email the .

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TAT Foundation News

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

Downloadable/rental versions of the Mister Rose video and of April TAT talks Remembering Your True Desire:

"You don't know anything until you know Everything...."

Mister Rose is an intimate look at a West Virginia native many people called a Zen Master because of the depth of his wisdom and the spiritual system he conveyed to his students. Profound and profane, Richard Rose was not the kind of man most people picture when they think of mystics or spiritual teachers. Yet, he was the truest of teachers, one who had "been there," one who had the cataclysmic experience of spiritual enlightenment.

Filmed in the spring of 1991, the extraordinary documentary follows Mr. Rose from a radio interview, to a university lecture and back to his farm, as he talks about his experience, his philosophy and the details of his life.

Whether you find him charming or offensive, fatherly or fearsome, you will not forget him, and never again will you think about yourself, reality, or life after death in quite the same way.

3+ hours total. Rent or buy at tatfoundation.vhx.tv/.

2012 April TAT Meeting – Remembering Your True Desire

Includes all the speakers from the April 2012 TAT meeting: Art Ticknor, Bob Fergeson, Shawn Nevins and Heather Saunders.

1) Remembering Your True Desire ... and Acting on It, by Art Ticknor
Spiritual action is like diving for the Pearl beyond Price. What do you do when you don't know what to do or how to do it? An informal discussion centered around the question: "What prevents effective spiritual action?"

2) Swimming in the Inner Ocean: Trips to the Beach, by Bob Fergeson
A discussion of the varied ways we can use in order to hear the voice of our inner ocean, the heart of our true desires.

3) A Wider and Wilder Vision, by Shawn Nevins
Notes on assumptions, beliefs, and perspectives that bind and free us.

4) Make Your Whole Life a Prayer, by Heather Saunders
An intriguing look into a feeling-oriented approach to life.

5+ hours total. Rent or buy at tatfoundation.vhx.tv/.

Return to the main page of the June 2018 TAT Forum.


Inspiration & Irritation

Irritation moves us; inspiration provides a direction

Discipline, Sex, Psychedelics, and More – The Return of Drunk Dialing: Excerpt from a Tim Ferriss podcast

My biggest interest right now is what states of higher perception can we cultivate through training.  What's coming to me is sex.  Sex seems to be a doorway in some cultures or philosophies, like tantra, Taoism, kama sutra.  I've heard some things and I'm trying to put them together. For example, abstaining from sex. Like you were talking to Jack Kornfield.  Or withholding orgasm as a training.  Or multiple partners, and relationship, and "let's have a lot a sex, guys," as a way to learn how to deal with your internal stuff.  What do you think?  Is that a doorway to higher perception?  Either of the techniques, or all of them, or what?

Yeah… good question.  I'll try to take a stab at it.  There are many components to that question.  I would say that, in general, my experience has been that whenever you take an act or daily habit – such as eating – and you make previously automatic or subconscious decisions conscious, that you can very deliberately change perception.  That can lead many interesting places.  That could take the form of – and I will get to sex – intermittent fasting, or fasting.  In which case you notice how much of your day is structured around three scheduled meals whether or not you are hungry.  That brings to you a new appreciation of your automatic behaviors that may or may not be justified.  Secondly, it gives you greater appreciation for, in this case, the thing you may have abstained from for a certain period of time, which is food. 

Sex is very similar.   I do think, and I don't know if this is physiological or psychological, but I have engaged in a number of different practices and schools of training where the accepted best practices involve abstaining from sex and furthermore abstaining from orgasm or ejaculation for a period of time.  Whether that is two weeks, or four weeks, or a longer period of time.  When you remove any compulsive behavior, and I will just go out on a limb and say I think that masturbation for men in particular can be a compulsive behavior and tool for procrastination – to put it mildly – women maybe also, but particularly men. When you remove that as an option, and you have for instance a trip planned where you're going to be engaging in some type of physical practice or exposure to psychedelics.  Whatever it might be, and it has been clearly expressed to you that your gains will be 3x, 4x, 5x greater if you abstain from this behavior, that is the petri dish (the period of abstinence) that can allow you to observe how you react to that. Observing the impulses and resistance that surfaces is really valuable.

I do think that whether or not there is some type of physiological basis to the regeneration or recirculation of chi for instance, which may or may not be the case, I'm very, very skeptical of a lot of this new age woo-woo stuff, even though I've read The Multi-Orgasmic Man, and [indistinct]. I've looked at those exercises and I have experimented with withholding or postponing ejaculation, in some cases where you can use say, or have partners use fingers in the perineum with pressure to prevent that from happening mechanically – which doesn't strike me as the healthiest approach – like sticking a potato in an exhaust pipe.  It doesn't seem structurally prudent to do.

If you for instance, as a male, and of course male and female physiology are very, very different when it comes to sex in multiple respects, but as a man, certainly learning to develop a sensitivity to when you're about to ejaculate and focusing on say, breathing patterns or visualization allows one to extend the duration of intercourse.  I think this is tremendously valuable and also transcends the bedroom. I think it goes other places.

Right!  That's my question, related to creativity and to see if there are correlations between… I get the discipline and interrupting of habitual patterns, but I haven't experienced personally, does that translate into am I more able to perceive nature, or be more creative in my writing, or be more aware or more present because I'm not giving my energy into this activity.

I think it's energy.  I think it's also cognitive load.  The degree to which any given activity is an interruptive thought.  When you remove something like that for a period of time it ceases to be static in the mind and therefore your signal to noise ratio improves, and ostensibly you should be able to… my experience is you can operate at a higher level when it comes to almost all your other activities. Which is why very often when I'm abstaining from one thing, such as sex, I'll also abstain from alcohol, I'll also abstain from caffeine.  I tend to layer those things on top of one another.

That makes sense.  How long have you been able to abstain from, say, all the things that distract you from a certain project?

I did it earlier this year for almost eight weeks, which is a long time for me.  I found it very, very worthwhile, and it proved to me also that I could do it.  If you wonder whether or not you are addicted to something you should try to go without it.  You will potentially suffer physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms, and your willingness to contend with that will give you a very accurate read of how addicted you are to whatever it is you are abstaining from…

Q: [interrupts] My question isn't coming from addiction, it's more about commitment.  It's hard to commit to it every single day.  It's more the discipline aspect that's exciting to me.  I know that if I tackle that, then I'll get a way bigger picture.

When I'm talking about addiction, I'm not talking about addiction to nicotine or caffeine necessarily, I'm also talking about compulsive thought patterns.  For instance, if you're interested in abstinence of any type, or experimenting with that, my recommendation would actually be if you really want to see very clear return on investment quickly, I would just Google "twenty-one day no complaint experiment."  Look for a blog post that I wrote about a twenty-one day no complaint experiment.  This translates very quickly to multiple domains.  When you remove certain patterns of phrasing – not only speaking, but thinking – the way you relate to the world, the selection bias you use for seeing the good or seeing the bad changes very dramatically.  I would recommend taking a look at that.


~ Thanks to Shawn Nevins, who writes: "I heard this Tim Ferriss episode a few weeks ago and found it surprising enough to transcribe the interesting portion.  I was amazed to hear someone speak about the value of abstinence from such a practical viewpoint.  His signal to noise ratio analogy is exactly my experience of celibacy."

Read more about celibacy as a modern spiritual practice in Shawn's book, The Celibate Seeker.

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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.

Talk at Duquesne University, Pittsburgh

Part 1 of a talk given at Duquesne University in 1974:

Stand up for a minute. Ok, you can sit down.

Now, I want to apologize for that as soon as I do it. But this is to bring out a point. It's very difficult to be truthful and honest, or investigative, as far as that's concerned, but if there is one thing that I can get across to you tonight, if I don't say anything else, it's just what I said there: Why do you stand up every time someone tells you to stand up? Why do you get in queues and lines and say "thank you" when somebody hands you something that's worth nothing?

And unless we start to observe our behavior from the very beginning, these little things that are imposed upon us by society, you will never be able to think for yourself. And if you can't think for yourself, after standing up the next order will be to fix bayonets, and I hope pointing in the other direction, of course.

Today I want to talk about myself a little bit. The reason for talking about myself is that I have given quite a few lectures, and I get in the habit of just talking about things that are philosophical, or that seem to be philosophically relevant. And perhaps a lot of people in the group have not encountered all the information that I have at my fingertips, and even that the members of our group at Pitt [the University of Pittsburgh] have at their fingertips. So I think sometimes I start in the middle of something instead of at the beginning.

I remember when I was younger, when I read a book, I was more interested in the author of the book than I was in the book. I invariably tried to apply my intuition, to try to figure out what the author was like. If I sensed that the author was sincere, I'd complete the book. But as soon as I sensed the author was insincere, regardless of what he had to offer, I'd put it down – because it could be a concoction, that he was fabricating something.

So I think that it's basic, not to just come out with an idea which may be new to quite a few of you, but to say why this idea occurred to me, or what type of a guy I am. Because basically I'm responsible for this thing, let's put it that way.


My search for truth began in this geographical direction [western Pennsylvania], incidentally. It is kind of ironic – I'm from Wheeling, and as a child I came through Pittsburgh on the way to a little town above Butler called Herman, and I studied there to be a Capuchin priest.1 I know that some of the fellows I studied with are now priests, and maybe some of them are in the area – I don't know, I haven't seen any of them for years. But at seventeen years of age I dropped out.

That search had started as a child. And I was sincere. But it was a search that was inspired by faith – by the faith of people that I loved. I went away when I was twelve years of age – because they took you out of grade school in those days; maybe they still do, I don't know. But I went away at twelve and I came back at seventeen. I had rejected the faith – because I had basically rejected the people as insincere. I had rejected empty answers. I had rejected imperative demands to believe rather than to search. At the same time the Good Book says, "Seek and you shall find," these people said, "Shut up – you believe what I tell you."

So then – I thought that I had a pretty good head on my shoulders, and my ego led me in the direction of using that head to find out what I could find. And I got into what I thought was a scientific, objective, materialistic search for truth. I was going to analyze matter. I went to college and majored in chemistry and decided I was going to analyze matter and find the truth.

I went to spiritualist materializations. I figured that if you want to find out what happens to you after death, go talk to somebody who has died – because it seemed to be a direct thing. And I searched all over the country, through scads of phonies with fluorescent cheesecloth as spirits, until I finally found some genuine materializations, and I talked to things that were supposed to be dead.

And I came away like Omar Khayyam – out the same door wherein I went.2 I found that basically the intellect is a quality or an attribute of vanity. And occasionally I would hear the echoes of some of the words that the good monks had told me in the seminary, to beware of pride, and that sort of thing. But they didn't spell it out. I thought they meant, you know, just be like a grub worm or something; don't get in the road. They never really spelled out the real nature of vanity. And strangely enough, they never do. We get our best analysis of vanity from lay philosophers, seemingly.

And this is one of the first things about Zen. When you get into the very heart of Zen, you'll find it's mostly an attack upon vanity. You reach wisdom by an attack upon vanity as much as anything else – but with the full determination to define that which you don't know, not the pretense of what you think you know.

But anyhow, I learned from this objective search – that went on from the time I was seventeen until I was about twenty-one years of age – that reason was important. It's important to reason things out, because there are reasonable processes. Faith alone, or believing in things, does you no good unless you try to develop some sort of common sense. And common sense implies reason, as far as we are able, because there is nothing but common sense until you have proof, and there is no such thing as proof until you know everything.

But when I was about twenty-one years of age I saw that it was going to take me – if I went through some analytic process to find the truth by the exploration of physical phenomena, cataloging of all ESP phenomena, or looking between the molecules – it would take me fifty or a hundred years, and I realized I didn't have it. And I sensed that there must be a more direct way. There had to be some direct way that a man could find this before he got too old to think, before his head started to crystallize.

Then I encountered yoga, and when I found yoga I thought, "This is it." Of course all I had was books. It was impossible to travel any great distance in those days; the Depression was on, but you could get to the library. And this author, incidentally, [holds up book] is Paul Brunton.3 He's not heard of too much now.

I got into this business of yoga and I stayed with it for seven years: hatha yoga and raja yoga, meditation techniques, and in general I never gave up delving into any transcendental things that came along. I was totally celibate, didn't smoke, didn't drink. I didn't care too much about what I said about my neighbor, but I didn't consider that a vice. But I abstained from most everything else – because I thought, "I'm going to go the whole hog. If you're going to do something, don't do it half way."

And of course, possibly in the back of my head, the celibacy instructions of the seminary had stuck as being worthwhile. I was picking a little bit as I went along, hanging on to what I thought was good and dumping what I didn't particularly like. You can't put it any better than that – I didn't say whether it was wrong or right, I just decided I didn't like it, so I dumped it.

And when I was about twenty-eight I realized that in this whole seven years I had gained nothing. My hair was falling out, my teeth were falling out. Occasionally I would get the urge to marry, and I'd think, "If I don't pretty soon, nobody will have me, because I look like hell; and I'm not getting a bit smarter."

But I did learn one thing though: that this prolonged period of attention and push, if you want to call it that – determination – had acquired for me a better intuition. If you could say I gained anything in seven years, I'm convinced I gained a better intuition.

But I didn't give up. There were times when I felt like I should, but for some reason I'd get drawn back in; I'd find a better book, I'd run into somebody who knew something, and I'd travel halfway across the country to interview them or talk to them. I talked to witch doctors in Texas, and spiritualists; if I had to hitchhike to go, I'd find someone who knew something.

I got into books, I got into philosophy. I read everything from the English translations, incidentally. When I went to the seminary, they had no translation of Thomas Aquinas – you had to read it in Latin. And I didn't even have a Latin copy, but later I got an English copy of the writings of Aquinas. And everything from Aquinas up to Freud – I chucked all this into the computer.

And there started to be some deductions, if you want to call it that. I came to certain convictions about the search itself, first of all – what you have to do. And to find out what you have to do, you have to find a little bit of something about the mental environment around you. And in analyzing and observing this mental environment, you come across laws – you hear these all the time, but people don't pay too much attention to them. I'm going to give you a couple, and then I'll enlarge upon them if you want me to later.


These are some of the laws you might say I thought at the time that I had discovered, only to find that somebody else had discovered them a thousand years before me, but had put other words down. And incidentally, the laws of physics nearly all apply to the spiritual laws. The laws of economics are very similar to spiritual laws. You apply those laws to economics and you can make a million dollars – or you can get spiritual value by taking the same energy and applying it.

For instance, the law of equilibrium. Results are proportional to energy applied in whatever you do. So that if you are a spiritual person and you make up your mind that you're going for a spiritual end, and you act with determination and don't just join some lodge or some club or some hierarchical institution which has gone to sleep three hundred years ago – but get out and fight it out for yourself – then you're liable to accomplish something. If you do the same in the financial world you can get rich, you can become a millionaire, having what I call average intelligence.

But the law of equilibrium you'll find in Hindu writings, called karma. If you strike a brick wall with a rubber ball, according to physics, the wall strikes the ball with the same force that the ball strikes the wall. You strike society and society will react in proportion.

Everything is in balance; don't try to upset it too much. You can affect it a little bit. They say faith will move mountains – that's the law of faith; but faith will not move mountains, because there are people on the other side, more people, who don't believe it's going to move. The only way you'll affect the physical universe by faith is if all of humanity that's living, that ever has lived or will live, agrees with you. Then the mountain may move. But it takes the combined total agreement of all the minds of mankind.

Now you can heal a wart or a boil with a restricted element of mankind – two or three hundred people in a room may cure a boil; five or ten may cure a headache. There is a quantum energy involved. But when something goes contrary to the whole dream that's been cast out here on the void for us to accept, you're not going to change it. One man is not going to change that dream.

I told you about the proportional returns. Now we operate again under another law, which I call the law of extra-proportional returns. The law of extra-proportional returns says that if you go to work building yourself a log cabin, it will take you "x" number of days. You can figure it out pretty close: it might take you 90 days. But if two people build the same log cabin, they may finish it in 43 days or 42 days because of leverage and working together. If four people go to work on it, it may cut down, instead of each having the equivalent of 45 days it may come down to 35 days in building that log cabin or that house or whatever is built.

Now this I also call the contractor's law. This is not some wild idea – if it were not for this law, no one would hire men to build buildings, because there is a shortcut in multiple manpower. The same thing applies spiritually. And this is the reason that all over the face of the earth you have monasteries, groups, brotherhoods or whatever you want to call them. Because they expedite effort.

It's like Alcoholics Anonymous – they keep saying, "Hey bud, you're drunk. Sober up, come back to the center, you're drifting away." That's one of the main purposes of having a group of people, functioning together.

The law of the paradox is another law that you'll encounter. The law of the paradox says that there is a paradoxical element in all things relative. We're speaking in a relative world with relative words – and permeating all this is the paradox: that which is may also be that which it seems not to be.

The law of the ladder is a spiritual law that says you have to help people below you, and you have to be helped by people on a rung above you. But it's advisable not to reach too far – you can only see one rung above you and you can only help the person one rung below you. Because it's historical that when you reach down two rungs, they crucify you; they pull you down by the hair of your head. So you have to be selective in those you talk to.

The law of the vector4 is another one.

Another law is the law of betweenness, which I will get into later.

The law of change – there was a man who lived up at Niagara Falls, and he wrote on the wall before he drowned himself: "All is change." He discovered that, and the discovery was so tremendous that he plopped in the water.5 He realized that there was nothing static, not even small-T truth. The only truth that is permanent is capital-T Truth, which refers to an absolute condition.

The law of relativity – now this isn't the Einstein law of relativity, this is the interrelation between all definitions – that nothing means anything without everything else. Every word in the dictionary almost involves every other word. Every human being involves every other human being.

The law of complexity – this is also formulated in physics, I think in cybernetics,6 that when things become so complex they seem to resemble life, they take on the semblance of life. And this has to do with any human effort.

The law of faith – you're acquainted with that, but not in all aspects of it, I don't believe.

The law of the pyramid – that's the reason I have a pyramid on the front of the book. The law of the pyramid is first of all the law of three. Benoit, in his books on Zen,7 has a similar pyramid – he talks of two, the positive and the negative polarity of things, plus the central point of conciliation.

The law of the pyramid also symbolizes that all human action is pyramidal in form. For every millionaire at the peak you have a heavy base – that's the reason the lines at the bottom are drawn heavy – a heavy base of quite a few people who are poor. Wealth is based entirely on poverty; you can't have it without poverty. Spiritually the same thing. Educationally, scholastically – for every man who becomes a PhD, he leaves behind a certain proportion. You can almost say there's a certain proportion of people who only finish the eighth grade, and a proportion who don't finish the eighth grade.

Spiritually, for every man who reaches what Bucke8 calls cosmic consciousness, nine hundred and ninety-nine thousand do not. They occupy different levels.

The law of progression is another one. The law of progression says that wherever there is something, there's a chance that there is more. That sounds rather childish, but there's a tremendous lot of reasoning to it. This is almost like calculus, that wherever you get a directional force of energy it implies indefinite possibility.

And the reason we mention the law of progression is simply the fact that whenever you say that there's such a thing as knowledge – that a person knows their toes from their nose – it's possible that they know something else. If it's possible for people to know how to count to ten, it's possible to count to a million, and it's possible to have infinite mathematical knowledge, if you want to take the time and the paper.

The same thing spiritually – we discover things and we think we've hit the top or the peak – and those discoveries sometimes are experiences. These experiences, I refer to them, and some of the psychologists refer to them, as exaltations. These exaltations have different forms. And this includes the inability, when they have these exaltations, to realize that the law of progression says that this might not be the end: that where there is a spiritual experience there can be another spiritual experience perhaps of greater type, until you reach the point where you know absolutely that there's nothing greater. Now that may sound controversial.


End of part 1. To be continued…


1. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Order_of_Friars_Minor_Capuchin.

2. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rubaiyat_of_Omar_Khayyam.

"Myself when young did eagerly frequent
doctor and saint, and heard great argument
about it and about: but evermore
came out by the same door wherein I went."

3. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Brunton. Rose recommended The Hidden Teachings Beyond Yoga and The Wisdom of the Overself.

4. Energy extended in a direction or away from a direction.

5. Francis Abbott, "the hermit of Niagara," 1831: "All is Change, Eternal Progress, No Death."

6. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cybernetics.

7. Hubert Benoit The Supreme Doctrine: Psychological Studies in Zen Thought. Also see http://www.selfdiscoveryportal.com/bzrecap.htm for a recap of the material.

8. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Maurice_Bucke.

~ Thanks to Steve Harnish for the transcription. for information on the transcription project.

Did you enjoy the Forum? Then buy the book! Beyond Mind, Beyond Death is available at Amazon.com.

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