The TAT Forum: a spiritual magazine of essays, 
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August 2018 / More


Convictions & Concerns

TAT members share their personal convictions and/or concerns

Marks of Enlightenment?

What is Enlightenment? The search for this exalted state has been the "holy grail" of humanity. Whether it's been called Enlightenment, Awakening, Nirvana, Transcendence, Transformation, Cosmic Consciousness or Heaven Within and Paradise on Earth, it has been a goal of most of humanity for millennia. ~ https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/awaken-your-brain/201209/what-is-enlightenment

An enlightened person has all the qualities of a Saint.

  • They're calm, unperturbed and unattached to everything
  • They do not care for material things
  • They realize that they are here (on the planet, in the bodily form) to help others
  • They are definitely ALWAYS happy
  • They never complain (about any situation or pain caused from it)
  • They are not strongly opinionated because they can see and accept all points of view
  • There is no scope for fear in their lives
  • They have surrendered themselves to the higher self. Therefore, there is no scope for pride, ego or self
  • They don't fear death. In fact, they accept it with open arms
  • They believe in Karma & re-incarnation and the connection between the two.
  • Most importantly, an enlightened person has realized non-duality and that definitely reflects in their behavior. They treat every being equally (from insects and reptiles to animals and human beings) They see the entire Universe in not only living things but also in non-living things.
  • Understanding non-duality is quite different from realizing and assimilating it. If you meet an enlightened person and are open to spirituality, you yourself will know it!

~ Neha Bandekar, Vipassana meditation practitioner https://www.quora.com/How-does-one-know-if-a-person-is-truly-enlightened-or-fake

What follows is an informal discussion about the marks or earmarks of enlightenment:

As soon as a teacher describes how realization should manifest in a person, they place relative limits on something that cannot have limits or conditions.  And worse, they fuel the beliefs of seekers concerning the "state" of realization. ~ Paul Constant


The marks of enlightenment, whatever they may be, are written in shifting sand, engraved in dust, burned into the air.  They only have meaning to the self, and not to the Self. ~ Shawn Nevins


When I first visited the TAT retreat in 2005, I knew I had met the quality I had named as integrity since I was young, but I wouldn't then or now be able to say much about it. It was as if there was planted in me a mirror or magnet that responded to that quality, it was a recognition of something that I had no words for, but it was a very definite feeling, not an emotion but a feeling as one might describe the feeling aroused by beauty.

I have since my awakening seen a couple of people have that same experience in my presence. One young Russian woman who stayed with me as an airbnb guest, on departing said in very broken English, "I want to grow up like you. I didn't know it was possible to become like you but now I know it is." We had had very little interaction. 

I find that people who knew me before the Self-realisation do not see anything different about me and in fact are disconcerted by what they see as my "making claims" that have no obvious signs. It just doesn't make sense to them.

... let me see if I can articulate how life is different for me post-awakening.

A seemingly undisturbable equanimity reigns where once was filled with anxiety and instability, regardless of the happenings of daily life.

A lack of motivation about doing or achieving anything, and this includes socialising or any kind of entertainment, which would have been a big part of my life pre-awakening.

A lack of need for approval from others and a lack of disturbance from disapproval. 

The need for meaning or purpose has gone.

The ability to see and understand others' motivations and blind spots has become clearer – not that this is accompanied by the ability to say something useful to them.

Feelings, as opposed to emotions, are more alive and likely to arise at most unexpected times. Feelings are not subject to rationality or logic. In fact sentimentality or love or heartbreak or sorrow or joy or amusement show up in the most unexpected places and times.

Memory is very weak.  How much of this is to do with the natural process of ageing I don't know, and yet when circumstances require it, it often functions perfectly well. It may be that a certain type of memory does not function well any more. I can't remember a word I have written, or any talk I have given. I can hardly remember yesterday. 

The mental life has changed dramatically. I used to have a lot of what I called imaginative and creative thinking going on. It could be anything from making up stories or scenarios, inventing dialogues, speculating about this and that. It was the place where fears could clothe themselves in imagined "reality". That has all gone, completely gone, and in its place there's a calm inner environment. It's not that there are no thoughts. Thoughts do float around on the periphery, rather like a moth or butterfly fluttering in the near distance. Thought comes front and central when engaged in some daily task or responding to some question or issue. Then the thoughts dissolve either completely away or move out to the periphery.

This shift happened suddenly with the awakening. It took some time to get used to the quietness. ~ Tess Hughes


"Now, just as awakening to cognitive capacity enormously enriches development in terms of sensation and affection, so also the Awakening to Higher Consciousness tremendously augments the capacity in the already partially unfolded inferior dimensions.  The result is that the greater portion of the best in religion, morals, art, philosophy, science, etc., has come from the hands or lips of those Men who have had this Higher Awakening in at least some degree.  Here is an effect that the man limited to three dimensions of consciousness can in some measure evaluate and appreciate, even though the Key Power is as yet beyond his understanding.  In fact, two of the earmarks of the Illumined Man are afforded by an increase, amounting sometimes almost to a revolution, in the intellectual and affectional functions or dimensions." ~ Shawn Nevins, quoting Franklin Merrell-Wolff, p. 132, Experience and Philosophy 


When a person realizes True Nature and lives from a newfound identity, he or she may undergo a drastic change in their inner world and have a strong urge to express the marks.  

For example, is thought eradication one of the marks of enlightenment?  Someone may be less inclined to give much attention to negative ruminations and tired old thought patterns about "me"—thoughts that effectively consume a lot of our energy yet have little value.  The quieting down of such thoughts may—but not always—be the natural trajectory of a subtractive spiritual path, of the retreat from untruth.  Perhaps the neuroscientists would say the neurons that were energized by our old beliefs and self-referential thoughts begin to "unwire" after a deep realization because we give them less attention. 

However, without personal context, it is a disservice to spiritual seekers to overemphasize the marks of enlightenment.  I see a huge mistake in the delivery of many self-ascribed teachers: they become too wrapped up in the byproducts of realization, especially if they are selling a particular brand of enlightenment.  And they often make unequivocal statements about the outcome of enlightenment, such as having no self-referential thoughts, experiencing intense energy in the body, living in bliss, having no attachments, etc.  As soon as a teacher describes how enlightenment should manifest in a person, they place relative limits on something that cannot have limits or conditions.  And even worse, they fuel the beliefs of seekers concerning the "state" of enlightenment.

Richard Rose often simply said "We become..."  Although these words may be confusing to the seeker, they are far better than risking the danger of creating more beliefs about enlightenment.

Almost no one wants to hear that enlightened life can be quite ordinary.  During decades of seeking, I wanted the moment of enlightenment and life afterwards to be awe-inspiring, otherworldly, and grand—and I suspect most seekers are looking for something grand too.   Most of us desire endless pleasure, perennially gushing love, an end to all tragedy in life, the elimination of all fear, ad infinitum.  Of course!  We are programmed that way!

Death and rebirth.  Or an unconditional impersonal Love.  These words come close to the mark.  Maybe.  We can only directly experience it for ourselves, and all attempts to describe it fall far short.  Perhaps the sole value of describing the marks of enlightenment, even if uniquely expressed through each Finder, is that such descriptions serve to fuel our curiosity to find out for ourselves…. ~ Paul Constant


When we become self-realized, we find the absolute point of reference, which I think Einstein intuited was needed to complete the quest of science ("the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behaviour of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment" per the Oxford English Dictionary). Unfortunately for science, what we find is an absolute state of being, which is our true identity and the cosmic source.

Realization occurs. Then the body-mind bows to the Truth. Atman bows to Brahman. The body-mind is an expression of Brahman that longs to understand, know, or unite with its source, to return home.

Before self-realization, the body-mind perches on supposed certainties. Many are convictions about our identity that have accumulated since childhood and that we're barely, if at all, conscious of. Others are sophisticated ironies such as the certainty that it's not possible to know anything for sure (based on a recognition that the mind's knowing is relative but not intuiting that there may be a superior form of knowing that the mind is not familiar with).

After realization, the body-mind may acknowledge that the one and only absolute certainty is our true identity, and all else is speculative. That, in my view, is a mark of enlightenment. ~ Art Ticknor


The word "Enlightenment" conjures up all sorts of clichés – especially when it comes to descriptions about what an "enlightened" person should think or not think, feel or not feel, and most especially how such a person should behave! RUBBISH! NONSENSE!

My teacher, Richard Rose once told me in a conversation we were having about this very topic, and specifically the point that Enlightenment was presumed to magically turn a sinner into saint, that if a person was a whoremaster before their realization, they would still be a whoremaster after their realization.

I'll never forget the following words in a reply to a letter I'd written to him soon after meeting him (at age 19), which was focused on my indecision in pursuing a spiritual path and a teacher/student relationship: "I see the doubts in your eyes without your even saying them. And what causes you to doubt is my personality – what you see is what the acid of life has left in the pot."

Yet, for me, to be around Rose was to feel in my bones that some state of absolute knowledge and certainty about one's origin and one's destination beyond the grave – and the fundamental nature underlying the entirety of everything between those two points – was real, and a real possibility for ME; and I knew in my gut that he lived in such a state, no matter what gyrations I witnessed going on with that character playing the life of Richard Rose in Benwood, West Virginia.

He didn't think it was a good idea to talk much about Enlightenment, and rarely did, mainly because it would fuel the ego's imagination and belief system. He wrote in a poem called The Way: "To believe is to weave…. And if the words of the teacher are kind to the ear, then the ear hears that which it wishes to hear. How then shall the ear hear of That which IS?" Instead he used the term "Absolute Truth" or just "The Absolute." He constantly warned about postulating the truth – and visualizations of it – and then working towards making that vision real, or imagining that what one sees is automatically true. One needed to work hard to clearly see That Which IS.

As a teacher he was all about goading you to find out for yourself – who and what you are, what the Truth is – independent of any and all speculation about what some imagined state called Enlightenment might be, or how it might mark a person. He said little about how to identify an enlightened person, other than he could generally tell if someone "knew the score" or not. Identifying enlightened people as such was irrelevant. All that mattered was finding help on the path – and developing the intuition to recognize someone who could truly help – and living your life in such a way that you developed the capacity to receive help when given.

Among those who really "talk the talk," in some I can feel a certain Presence surrounding them, which is familiar to me, while in others I feel nothing. I take that feeling to be a confirming "mark" of a shared knowledge and realization. For those who don't evoke that feeling, I do not presume to judge their realizations – and it would be wrong to criticize their sincere efforts to help others.

If you must postulate a state, which has attributes and indicators of possessing it or not, then you'd be better off naming that state Tentenmelnigh. At least the lack of definition of the word might force you to pause and reflect before you start to imagine what it is, and what the identifying "marks" would be for those who have it or live there. Assuming a degree of honesty, you might admit that you simply do not know what it is, and that hear-say is not valid criteria to assess others, let alone your own spiritual state. Instead of imagining how you can add these "marks" to yourself, or what negative self-attributes you could bargain away to acquire them, you might see it is far more practical to start with zero assumptions and concentrate on defining he-who-is-seeking, and the trustworthiness of one's perceptions and mental processes.

Instead of donning prettier and merrier rose-colored glasses, have a closer look at the fantastic belief that an individual consciousness that exists by day but disappears by night is somehow going to continue to exist when the body dies and turns to dust. And adding something to that is going to lead to the Truth?

I don't give a lot of credence to the notion of "marks of enlightenment," and I challenge the notion that enlightenment is an experience. Both of those belong to the body-mind prancing around in a dreamplay. Nearly all the characteristics I hear of can, to some extent and in various combinations, be witnessed in people who do not know where they came from, what is the core of their Being in this life, or where they are going after death. Life has molded the character of many people in wondrous and admirable ways, just as it has for many in the exact opposite way. (Like "Little Jack Horner" in the old nursery rhyme most also take the credit for those outcomes.)

A common denominator among those who could be tagged as "Enlightened" is the realization of their own non-existence. But if and how this translates as some observable "mark" easily witnessable to others is just not that useful to talk about. Realizing one's own non-existence seems a nonsensical contradiction.

A realization of one's own non-existence is possible for the simple reason that what remains when bodymind-ego are gone was never dependent on that in the first place. Quite the opposite. "IT" is – and does not need you for "IT" to BE. So then "who" sees their own non-existence? That's what you have to find out for yourself, and will, if the journey is successful. But if and when such sudden and spontaneous realization occurs, it will be accompanied by an experience, having duration, and attributes, and belonging to the body-mind-ego. That experience – and all the ensuing explanations of it, are conditioned by the history of that body-mind-ego – as are any so-called "marks" that may or may not be observable to others.

An absence of fear of death is perhaps the only, or at least most basic, "mark" of someone who has realized the Absolute Truth of their existence. How precisely this manifests visibly to others could vary greatly. The bodies of such people will react like any other body – pull back from a burning fire, step back from a cliff, eat when hungry, kill a biting mosquito without a blink and with zero regret.

Increased capacity for empathy for others, and all life, is something that springs from this realization regarding death.

All these other varied notions of what the content of consciousness should or should not be, and emotions – and even physical attributes, should be as a consequence of this realization are either irrelevant or just plain wrong.

It is TRUE – that the physical body has an impact on the mind, and emotions. It is also true that actions impact the direction of one's attention. Therefore, part of a spiritual path includes "putting one's house in order" as Rose often said. But I think it is erroneous to place too much focus on the physical – specifically the notion that manipulating it, via physical practices or chemicals, will somehow lead to a true realization of what remains when nothing of you – body or mind – does! The best such manipulations can achieve is in support of developing an inward vector of the attention – away from all that is not true, not you, towards the Source of "you." Any state that depends upon a pattern of physical factors – and comes and goes with it – has little to do with Essence, self-transcendence, or the Absolute Truth.

Post-realization, for me, whatever is going on in the body/mind regarding thoughts and emotions has nothing whatsoever to do with the Witnessing Awareness. My kidneys made urine before and after my transcendental realization and so, too, my brain forms thoughts, and combined with the body forms emotional states – all of which comprise an experience occurring within individual consciousness. Beyond and outside of that, The Witnessing Awareness is never absent – and That is what I truly am, by day and by night, in life and in death.

That which you take yourself to be is merely another experience in consciousness – the root experience.

Experience is binding. Witnessing experience is liberating. Your most immediate experience is your experience of being "you."

Find that "mark" for yourself, in yourself. ~ Bob Cergol


I haven't resolved my doubts about what I am, so the only perspective I have on the question of the marks of enlightenment is from an outside or third-person point of view.

For me the main mark of enlightenment – what I pick up in someone – is a kind of settledness.  I don't know how to describe this except by contrast with the unsettledness that I experience and that I notice in most other people: a subtle wobbliness or off-centeredness, and with it an undercurrent of anxiety.  I tend to take this unsettledness for granted, so noticing its absence in someone can be striking.  It makes my own sense of unsettledness harder to ignore, and it points to the possibility of something else. ~ Mark S.


How do you talk about Enlightenment? Any words that i try to use, i find they could be true or not true. I don't think it can be explained. Before it was just speculation and an attempt to understand what it is using the tools that you have. There is a shift in the organism's state of being. You realize and become the Source.

The attention is no more on 'me/i/self' but on 'Source/Self/Truth'. To me it is really as simple as the shift in attention. Instantaneously you are aware of the Source. But can I do this at my free will? By the very nature of the reality where I exist, it draws me out. I feel the whole point of this perfect and beautiful creation would be missed if it didn't draw this organism's attention towards it. It would have been just perfect if I did not have this inner longing for completeness. For any experience to be complete, we have to know the two opposites. So I guess it makes sense to feel this painful incompleteness as the motivation to know your Absolute state. Where does this duality exist? Who feels this pain?

For me marks of enlightenment are when you have no question left unanswered. There is no doubt about who you are. There is no separation. Desires/fears/thoughts/emotions or whatever else that makes the organism move, are there and serving a purpose. You can't be bothered about it. You are as real or unreal as everything else you experience around.

There are mystical experiences that a seeker may encounter. Their implications are what I feel the seeker is not ready to accept. There are no shortcuts, but the path is simple…just keep removing whatever you feel may be getting in the way. Pay attention to where your attention is.

I find this to be true when Kabir says if 'you' are, then 'Ram/God' cannot be; when 'Ram/God' is, then 'you' cannot be. ~ Anima Pundeer


Comments or questions? Please email the .

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


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 August 2018 TAT Forum.


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 3 (conclusion) of a talk given at Duquesne University in 1974 – continued from the June 2018 TAT Forum and the July 2018 TAT Forum:

Authorities and robots

The reason I talk about psychology and psychiatry – I'm somewhat concerned about those people who are putting themselves in a position, without any knowledge of the truth, to deny an Essence for man. And this is the current psychological thought, that man has no Essence; that all he is, is what you see; and that a person who claims they have a soul is a dreamer.

I'm concerned that we're becoming a race of robots, if we're not already a race of robots. And that was the reason I asked you to stand up. Because we're being programmed to respond to authority, instead of being programmed to respectfully question authority.

Who am I to tell you to stand up? I'm nobody. I'm nobody. Who am I to say, "Please form a line over here"? Yet people rush out and start directing traffic – and no one questions them, whether they've got a right to direct traffic.

You go in the army and someone tells you, "You better believe it!" It becomes a slogan: "You better believe it." Why should I better believe it? Because when you get into this frame of mind, you're sunk. I mean as a philosopher and as an individual. You cannot be a thinker and have somebody brainwashing you as soon as you enter the first grade of school. And we're training all of our people to be tractable.

Now of course I realize you can't have bedlam, you can't have chaos. But I think, if we decide to be thinkers, we still should give ourselves a chance, and give our fellowman the chance also, of questioning. Of asking, "Why does it have to be so regimented? Why must we be like cattle?" – categorized and driven in herds toward an inescapable robot destiny.

My complaint against the world of modern psychology and psychiatry is that it lies within their hands – I maintain that for 2,000 years the freedom, the spiritual freedom of man, laid in the hands of the Christian Church. At least this is as far as I know; I don't know what happened in Asia. They claim that Zen is 6,000 years old – perhaps, I don't know. All I know is what I see today.

But from the history that I've read, the freedom, the spiritual freedom on man, lay in the hands of the early psychologists – who functioned in a confessional instead of a psychiatric couch. And somehow they went to sleep, and presumed that people would just do what they told them. It was no longer a religion of, "Go out and seek the truth." It was one of, "Shut up and believe – or we'll send you down to the Cossacks to put you in line." And as a result, the end began with the Inquisition.

We substituted search with authority, and this is too easy to do. And today we're on the verge of being disciplined by a psychological, psychiatric and sociological hierarchy who are going to claim for their right – the right to program the robots: to tell them what is normality and what isn't normality.

So it's important that we somehow question this, and say, "Why do I have to think or to respond in this or that given manner?" And if you're aware of it when you go down the street for instance – I notice that people are becoming very automatic, as Gurdjieff says. If you can, read some of these books on Gurdjieff; they're available in libraries; or Ouspensky, rather – he writes on Gurdjieff.

You go down the street and you meet somebody you know – what do they tell you? "Have a nice day." For what? – it didn't cost them a cent; they're giving you a nice day. And our whole social system is full of these inane remarks that we reinforce ourselves with. What they're saying is, "Am I not sweet? Now you must be sweet to somebody else. And everything will be sweetness."

So if you go and say, "Have a nice day," to some people, everybody will have a nice day, regardless of whether there's an earthquake or a riot downtown or not.

And you might say, "What does this have to do with Zen?" Well, Zen is the science of the Truth. Zen is the examination of yourself – you look inside yourself. You can't look inside yourself if somebody puts your eyes out, or makes it impossible for you to live. Or teaches your children in such a way that they cannot possibly grow up to be individuals; that they have to grow up to be a part of a chunk, a blob of something.

Brain machine

Where it will lead us, I don't know. But I brought a clipping here, if I can find my glasses. This was in a Pittsburgh paper, the Press or the Post-Gazette, from about a month ago.1

Menlo Park, California: A young woman wears a modified white football helmet on her head, electrodes sticking out like hair curlers. On a TV-size screen in front of her, a white dot moves up and down. She is hooked to a computer, and scientists say the squiggly line across the screen shows that the computer successfully read her mind, and responded to her mental command.

Lawrence Pinneo, director of the neurophysiological program at the Stanford Research Center here says that the computer relies on brain wave tracings taken by electroencephalogram. The tracings show that distinctive wave patterns correspond to individual words, whether the words are spoken aloud or merely thought.

For example, when a person thinks about the word "up," the machine obliges by moving a white dot on a screen up. It also moves sideways and down in response to those thoughts.

Pinneo says the mind-reading machine does better at recognizing a spoken word than a silent thought. When spoken, he says the computer responds correctly about sixty percent of the time; to silent commands it responds correctly about thirty to forty percent of the time.

Like the human whose mind it monitors, the computer sometime errs, but scientists predict that someday the machine may lead to persons conversing entirely in pure thought. Pinneo says that the Pentagon-funded project is still in the embryonic stage, and though it is still unreliable, the computer has had spurts where it was one hundred percent correct.

"The implications of such work are limited only by imagination," Pinneo said. "Among possible uses, it would allow deaf persons to converse without language, sign language or written messages. It would lead to remote-controlled fighting machines which respond to the thoughts of a commander stationed away from a battlefield."

But he doesn't tell what else it would lead to: that your privacy, if you ever had any, would absolutely cease to exist. When your thoughts are not private, what else is there left for you?

And it's become increasingly difficult now for people of a sincere religious or philosophic aim to do anything without the mark of something on them. So how much more difficult will it be to function outside the will of those who are in charge of the machines?

Now this isn't the first. Twenty years ago I came through Columbus, Ohio and picked up a newspaper, and at that time Ohio State University – this has all been quieted; I tried to buy the newspapers after I left town and couldn't get them – they had a machine twenty years ago that would hypnotize. The article gave the amperage, the voltage and the cycles – I memorized some of it but I never was able to recreate it, because I wasn't interested in doing so. But they claimed that you could either wire a person up to this, or create a magnetic field in which they sat, and they would immediately become hypnotized.

Well, when these things are possible, then someone has to be in charge of the machine, and it better be a Jesus Christ, believe me, or something of that equivalent.

Q & A

Now I would rather at this time to turn the meeting over to questions. Again, we grope for understanding. I do not particularly care to indulge in prolonged arguments with you, but if anybody feels that they would like to know more about what I've said, or if I've not explained things in some area or region, I'll be happy to go on from here.

Q. You advised against staying in a tradition. That's interesting, because it seems contradictory to the prevalent attitude that without a teacher you're in a sense wasting time and just walking in the dark.

R. Well, I'll be quite frank with you. I didn't have a teacher. And I don't think I would have found something by believing somebody else. Because you let down then, you quit working. As soon as you say "I believe," you're accepting. But I do believe that teachers come in handy, or I wouldn't be standing up here.

My complaint, as I was a young man I just didn't sit home and read – I travelled all over the country. And everyplace I went I ran into phonies. The books that I read sounded good, but you'd go up and find one of these yogis or gurus or philosophers or so-called teachers – you would run into a phony. Or somebody that if you were young, he was homosexual and all he was interested in was making a pass at you, and telling you he knew something.

So that as far as the conventional religions – the hierarchy was already established. These people, as I said, were saying, "Shut up and believe. Don't cause any ripples. Because we've got our institution built up and we don't want you to give us any static."

So this is paradoxical. You do not need a teacher; you can do this entirely by yourself. But you'll never do it entirely by yourself. I didn't do it entirely by myself. I didn't have a teacher but I read books. Somebody had to write the books. And when I wrote The Albigen Papers, I thought I'd kick the bucket before anybody read it. I didn't particularly intend to go out and start giving talks.

The thing is that the determination should come from within yourself. But if you can encounter someone who has been down the trail before you, regardless of what kind of trail it has been – like if you're out hunting deer or something, and somebody tells you which way is safe and which way is unsafe – this is advisable. It saves you time. This is my point.

I did meet people when I was younger, but they were mostly colleagues – they were not people who had found something. They were people who were like myself, who were digging. I became angry – it wasn't just dissatisfaction – I became angry because everyplace I turned, I ran into liars and thieves. Or some bigot – with his head up in the clouds, saying that God was talking to him personally, and I had to take his translation; I had to believe everything he said or I was damned forever. And I said, "You're damned immediately. I don't want to hear any more of it."

Because if I have no right to doubt – to me, doubt is more sacred than faith. Because this is our prerogative. Faith is our damnation. But people hang onto these little clichés, because some charismatic person tells them, "Believe." And he uses melodious tones, and he uses perfect diction, or something of that sort.

Q. The search for this truth, this quest, or whatever you want to call it …

R. Yes.

Q. I've often had many thoughts as to whether that is itself a very presumptuous vanity, to think you can even see the truth, let alone recognize it when you do see it.

R. Yes, I agree with you. I agree with you. But you've got to do something. What do you want to do, just eat and reproduce and die? You've got to make a stab at it, even though it's vanity. If it's vanity – all the other things are even more vain.

See, this can become a rationalization with you a little. You can say, "Oh, why should I be vain? I'm going to quit working, I'm going to quit digging." There are all sorts of rationalizations we can come to. They sound very good. One fellow in Steubenville, his name was John, he said to me, "Rose, I don't think that John Kapitka is that damned important that he should live forever. So I don't think he is going to live forever."

In other words, this was the acme of humility. But it wasn't; it was the acme of rationalization. Even a mouse tries to escape from the cat. Even a mouse says, "Wait – give me time to think, to figure this thing out before I go down the drain."

You have no choice except to look. So if you pretend you're not looking, you're rationalizing. Not to answer your own curiosity is rationalization. This is organic. The amoeba is curious. You watch him under a microscope – he doesn't always forage for food; sometimes he is just feeling around.

Q. Do you have a prescription as far as "right seeking"?

R. Yes. Yes, I do. Oh yes. I couldn't give it in five minutes. First of all, this is the first lecture I have given here, and I try to give an introduction to myself and to give a general outline. You can see what a nice guy or bastard I am – take your pick – and carry it from there. And if you're curious, look into it a little further. I'm not selling anything particularly. I believe that the people who are curious enough will find it anyhow, with me or without me. But the only thing is, if I happen to be of help, it's that much better, that's all.

Q. I was intending to ask this at the last meeting, something similar to that guy in Steubenville. You could essentially say, "Why look?"

R. Futility is futile. Looking may be futile but futility is also futile.

Q. Why not just look?

R. Good. Good. Basically, that's all we can do. We can only see with what perceptive apparatus we have. Some people have eyes but no ears; some people have ears but no eyes. Some people have logic but no intuition. And you're guided, more or less; you're dragged in. Things appeal to you. It's like a flower and a bee. You'll be drawn to it, I think, if your destiny's in that regard. But I think the majority of people are not drawn, that's all.

I think each person has a safety valve. This takes a lot of pressure, and the ones who don't have the pressurized system, or the system capable of taking pressure, automatically avoid the heavier work. Nature takes care of itself.

Q. I think that what you're saying, and I agree with you, is that you don't have any choice. You can't stop wondering.

R. Yes. What you can do – you can procrastinate or you can get lazy and say, "I'll put it off until next year," or, "I'll put it off until I raise my family." I have heard guys say that.

One of the fellows – he's my age and he's in the original group that I grew up with. He was married to a woman about fifteen years older than himself, and she had developed heart trouble. And he said, "Rose, as soon as she kicks the bucket we'll go to Tibet." Well – she obliged us by dying within five years, as the doctor predicted. But before she died he had gotten himself another wife. He had divorced her and now he was starting on the first out of ten kids – he finally wound up with ten kids. So Tibet was out. Not that it ever should have been in, because the truth is not in Tibet; the Truth is inside of you. This business of running to Tibet is a rationalization. This is pursuing it out there. It's not out there. It's not in me any more than it's in you.

Q. Even if you're trying to escape from the whole thing, as long as you're aware of the fact that you're escaping, then you're not escaping.

R. What makes you think you aren't?

Q. Because it's still there.

R. You mean if a man is falling out of an airplane and realizes that he's falling, then he's no longer falling?

Q. No, but you're not effectively escaping from it, if you're aware of the fact that you're escaping.

R. Being aware of it doesn't necessarily mean a reversal. That doesn't mean a reversal. For instance, this is what we encounter in the group. We'll hold discussions among ourselves on certain attributes or hang-ups that people have. And a fellow will say, "Gee, I know this; I watch myself doing this, but I keep on doing it." Maybe sleepiness or something – he finds himself getting in trouble because of sleepiness….


End of tape. If you have more of this recording, please email using the link below.


1. Also see Time magazine 7/1/74 http://www.time.com/time/printout/0,8816,942916,00.html.

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


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