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January 2019 / More

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 January 2019 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.

Laws, Yardsticks, Exaltations

Part 1 of a talk given at Ohio State University in 1974 –

"In the Fall of 74 we opened another [self-inquiry] group in Cleveland. To date, we have given lectures in two Theosophical Lodges, a Unitarian Church, and in the universities of Pittsburgh, Duquesne, Carnegie-Mellon, Ohio State, Kent State, Cleveland State and Case Western." ~ Notes on the Year 1974, by Richard Rose

Life Stories

This is my first lecture here this semester. I generally try to introduce myself a little bit in the first talk, presuming that after that some of you will be back and not have to hear it again, but there aren't too many of you here from last year. I don't see too many old faces.

The reason for this introduction of course is to give you a better idea of where I come from, philosophically at least. I've had pretty much of a lifetime of experience in searching, and hardly any of the searching part had to do with Zen. But the language that I use today has to do with Zen.

I was born and raised a Catholic; in fact I was so devoted to the idea as a child that when I was 12 years of age they shipped me off to be a priest. I endured that for 5 years and left at 17, not without some hesitations, because I didn't have any place else, anything that would be any better.

I couldn't say at that time that my search was for my self-definition. I thought I was searching for God, and I thought I was following a path, a path that the authorities knew about—the authorities being my parents and contacts in school.

So there was quite a traumatic break that occurred, when I was about 17 years old, with this conventional form of religion. But I think my childish intuition told me there was something missing, and I didn't care for the particular brand of authority.

So I got into an objective search; I got to looking into scientific things, studying the mind and studying psychology. And of course in those days there wasn't much known. I don't think there's still much known in the line of psychology. It's just that we have more of a confusion of theories, more theories to go by.

But regardless, I got into objective studies. I looked into spiritualism because—here was a challenge—it said that if you want to know what life after death is, talk to the dead; this is the most reasonable thing to do. And I found you could talk to the dead—and I searched the country over until I found a materializing medium that could materialize spirits—and incidentally it happened just near Columbus here; there's a town called Delaware, a spiritualist church by the name of White Lilly Chapel. And that's where I saw my first materialization.

They had a concrete floor and a concrete block wall structure; and through those concrete floors I watched spirits descend. Some of them exploded, some looked like they just went down an elevator. This was very interesting, and would have perhaps invited a whole life of attention and research. But the more I talked to these entities the less I was satisfied that they were ever going to convey any information anyway. They seemed not to know anything except what they were told; they echoed rather than answered questions, when you put questions to them.

I was kind of reminded by something in the Bible [Ecclesiastes 9:5]: "The dead know nothing." Of course this is a sad commentary if this is where we all wind up, in a befuddled state in which we know nothing. If you're interested in that line of research, well, I was pretty well satisfied that they were not the spirits of the dead; they were spirits but they were not the spirits of the dead.

Now this is an old field of discovery. Others I think have discovered it. After I got into certain yogi schools—the experimental part of the Universal Brotherhood also dug into this and they came to the conclusion that these were what they called shells, astral shells revitalized by human energy. Regardless of what they were, they didn't provide the answer.

I got into yoga when I was around 20. I went through the gamut of a lot of things that people are going through today: meditation and the use of magic words, the concentration upon magic spots in the head, or listening for sound currents. All this stuff was in evidence then, but it wasn't sold on the open market like it is now. The outfits I joined didn't charge money; there was no charge for the information. Later it was commercialized, put on the open market.

I pursued a very diligent course between the ages of 21 and 28. I more or less threw my whole energy into it. And when I speak of my whole energy I'm not just talking about physical energy—I did everything I thought was advisable, and employed all the common denominators that were advised in the different religions and sects. Some of these common denominators were abstinence from meat—at that time there was no talk of a macrobiotic diet; I would have gotten into that if I had heard about it. But I was just doing everything at once. I was going to try everything: I didn't smoke, I didn't drink, I didn't even drink coffee—seven years—I was totally celibate. So I tried everything simultaneously.

After seven years I began to think I was a fool. Nothing was happening. I had put all the energy and strength that I could against this wall of ignorance that I was trying to overcome; and all I witnessed was at the age of 28, an already balding person whose teeth were already starting to fall out, and not a bit wiser.

So from that period on until I was about 301 I floundered, first into one philosophy then another. I travelled, and looked up witch doctors and wise men and cults. But I didn't get outside the country. I never went to Asia, because—it wasn't that I didn't want to, but we couldn't—there was one continuous war from the time I was 25 years of age. World War II developed into the Korean War, and in between our wars India was at war, so that you couldn't enter into India; Pakistan and India were fighting. Several times the idea occurred to me to go over there but there was always something—you knew you couldn't find anything if you had to cross battle lines.

And then I realized too that this business of travelling to foreign countries to find wisdom is an escape mechanism; while you're doing this you're not studying here; this becomes a pilgrimage to escape from heavy work. And a lot of people indulge in this; this is the famous—pilgrimages are all outward forms of interior laziness. They didn't do anything spiritually, they just made pilgrimages; they're still making pilgrimages to India. The truth has always been here, and there have always been men who knew something—the only thing was that they were intangible; you couldn't get ahold of them.

So at the age of 30, without much warning, I had an experience which answered my questions. Now maybe I should say it in more flowery terms than that—but there's no actual way to say it at all.

And after that, still after that, I met Zen teachers. In other words, the only people who talk this language, the only people who can verbalize it at all, were Zen people—not philosophers in the western school, not Christian mystics—although I maintain that Christian mysticism has produced its share of Enlightened people; it's just that they have a devotional language that's hard to follow. You have to put yourself in a devotional mood, and then, when you do that, you're immediately postulating by your mood the end result—in other words, using holiness as the end instead of holiness as the means.

So I made quite a study into Zen. I had tried to contact people before I met these Zen teachers—one of these was a fellow named [Alfred] Pulyan. But of course in those days people didn't care for spiritual growth; the only thing they cared about was—there was a tremendous surge after World War II back to the plants to make back the money they hadn't made during the war.

So the big thing was survival and money—no one was interested, and no one has been interested in this country except a very small minority. If any of you have read [Richard] Bucke's Cosmic Consciousness—Bucke says one in a million reach cosmic consciousness. So how are you going to, if you have something to tell somebody, find that one in a million people whom you can help? It becomes quite a task.

The Group

So after years of probing social parties and bull sessions and that sort of thing, I more or less just gave up. I thought, "What's the use?" And it was only about five years ago that I encountered some people by accident who wanted to hear it, and I gave a lecture at Pitt, the University of Pittsburgh. First I gave a lecture at the Theosophical Society in Pittsburgh, and some people from the university came down and wanted to hear it at the university.

The result is that all this has all happened as a chain reaction. A boy came over from the university at Kent, and they formed a group in Kent; and from Kent, Bob Cergol came down here and went to work here and started a group here. Then a group formed in Cleveland.

We have an ashram in the country where people go for summer intensives, just to retreat if nothing else. There are no restrictions put upon them; it's just a retreat, to meditate if that's what they wish. But we do have a few things going.

Now, so much for that. If you have any more questions about me I'll answer them. As I said yesterday—I gave a lecture yesterday at Case Western University in Cleveland2 —I don't believe in any outward form of a philosophic or religious posture. I do not dress in a certain way; I don't shave my head, I'm naturally bald. The hair on my chin is mostly because of ingrown hairs I get in the winter time, it's not because I'm trying to impress somebody. So any stupid look on my face is not something from years of Zen wisdom, it's just a congenital characteristic.


Another thing I'd like to straighten out with you is this difference in the meaning of Zen. There are a lot of different interpretations of Zen. And why are we here? Why don't I just recommend that you pick up a book by [Hubert] Benoit or Huang Po or Suzuki or [Phillip] Kapleau, or go up and see Kapleau?—or go to a Zen tea ceremony or Zen archery, or lord knows what?

Well, basically the reason the word Zen was chosen—in the Pyramid Zen Society, these names were chosen because this system was made possible by a Zen teacher, a person who taught me the art of transmission. And this isn't taught in any Christian mystical school.

Also, because Zen has a direct language to the mind; it doesn't beat around the bush with objective behavior patterns of psychology. And yet it's a pure psychological system; it's a system of perfect psychology, of going directly into the mind—first to your own mind and then into other people's minds, in transmission.

Now there are many Zen systems that do not do this. I was acquainted with Sokei-an, and I'm acquainted with disciples of Sokei-an who got nothing from years of attending Sokei-an's meetings in New York City and on the west coast.

There was another fellow—well, I'm not going to go further into names—but there was a fellow who died just recently, and his was strictly meditation.

You can pick others. We ran into a book recently—[The Spiritual Teaching of] Ramana Maharshi—I have a copy of that with me; I picked it up in a rummage sale. I was rather amazed that the man who speaks the most fluently and eloquently about enlightenment is a man who never uses the word enlightenment, and that's Ramana Maharshi. And he doesn't know anything about the word Zen, I don't think; he doesn't care about it. He was a Hindu mystic. He calls it sahaja nirvikalpa samadhi3 —that's the highest experience the mind can reach, after the mind is destroyed.

But we have, after you're around let's say, you'll find that we have a decided choice of action here. You'll not see us doing keisaku;4 you'll not be sold prayer mats or robes. It doesn't matter what you wear; it's what's in your head, not what you're sitting on.


And we don't hold to some easy method of meditation whereby you just sit. Phil here was up at a lodge—it's not a Zen lodge, it was another group of people, and he met a fellow—I had met him previously but I didn't know the particular story about him. He said he had been doing meditation for 22 years. I think I have a whole forest of oak trees back home that have been doing the same thing for about a hundred years, and they've got about as far.

Meditation may bring you peace of mind, but it will not bring you wisdom, and it will not bring you the answer unless you follow a specific type of irritational meditation, not visualizational meditation. Visualizational meditation brings you answers which you postulate beforehand; you ease your mind into a soothing condition of resignation, if nothing more than that.

The Objective

The next thing is, what is the objective? What are we after? Well, if I told you, if I used the word "enlightenment," I'd have to define it. Consequently I can't use the word enlightenment—because in order to define it, I'd have to produce it, like an egg. And basically, the only thing that you can do—our objective is to retreat from error. This is the way the opposite is arrived at, not by postulating what truth is or what [your] definition is or what God is, because with these things you always begin them with a lie to the self.

But by witnessing a manifest pile of garbage into which we immerse ourselves—and accept and believe and devote our time, energy, money and everything else to without any question. In contrast to that, we pick out the best garbage and reject the worst garbage until there's nothing left but pure values—or purer values and purer values. And this is what we call the system of the reverse vector: that you continually retreat from untruth.

There's no other path, believe me. If you're going anyplace, you can't postulate first and then expect to get there. You'll get wherever you postulate; you can create it. People in Tibet have created tulpas5—I don't know if you've heard the word, but the monks in Tibet have a practice of creating a woman, a very beautiful woman—I assume to have intercourse. They don't have to go down out of the mountain to find themselves a woman; they have this spirit that they'd have intercourse with, and it's a real relationship. And if you want to check this out, check Alexandra David-Neal's book, Magic and Mystery in Tibet. This is one source, and there are other sources that mention it.

It takes quite awhile to create one of these tulpas, and it takes twice as long to get rid of them, because they become somewhat individualistic.

But this is how far you can go in the business of creation, if you wish. You can build yourself a heaven, or fantasies that someday will bust like a bubble, and you'll have to face facts. This is what most people do; most people build themselves a bubble of fantasy and say, "Well now, here there's 200 million people, or 20 million people that believe the same thing we do," and they think by democratic vote they'll enter some celestial region just because everybody believes it and votes on it. They say, "Yes, we agree."

But these people, when they become ready to terminate this existence, have this moment of doubt, which is the first step in Zen. Whereas the Zen authors, Zen masters, said hundreds of years ago, "The first step is doubt."

And I maintain that the enemy of mankind is faith, and the first step is doubt. The first serious step is doubt—even so far as to doubt what I'm telling you right now. Find out for yourself if necessary. If I can be of any help, okay, but I don't expect anyone to take what I say without some justification, just blindly, and follow because maybe you thought I was honest or something. This would be an insufficient reaction in my estimation.

The next thing I want to bring out is that enlightenment—again, we're using the word loosely, without definition—you get a rough idea of what I mean—is not the property of any movement. It's not the property of Zen—I just think Zen has a good system, that's all. I'm quite sure that Ramana Maharshi was an enlightened man; John of the Cross may well have been an enlightened man. All we have is what we read in books, because these people are gone. But it is not peculiar to any point of the globe; it's peculiar to your own Self. It lies within. There's no need to look without, to go tramping all over the world to find it.

There's more than one formula, perhaps. There's more than one path to the top of the hill, but some are more productive than others. I think some may be more direct, and this is the reason that I advise this. Because I consider that a lot of years of my youth were wasted, prowling around and hunting and being disillusioned by phonies, people who were huckstering stuff for money.

Now there are different ways that this is brought about, incidentally. Some reach it by evolution: some seem to have a spiritual evolution of sorts; as some say, they pick it up from previous incarnations. They work, and the incarnations come, and succeeding incarnations bring them to higher states. There's no proof of this; this is just a theory.

Some seem to have been brought about by accident. There's a case, if you're interested in reading about it, in the October issue of the Readers Digest there's a little article, "I died at 10:52 AM."6 This man had a heart attack sitting beside his wife in an automobile, and he was pronounced dead for about ten or twenty minutes. Then he started to show signs of life.

And while he was unconscious, he had an experience which he describes in this article. He doesn't name it—but I recognized the experience. It was very similar to the one I had, and I'm quite sure that the man made a trip. And it may have been by accident, but it might not have been. He didn't give the history of his spiritual diggings—he may have led quite a life before that, of spiritual intensity. And from that intensity, when death did hit him, although it wasn't permanent—but technically he was dead—he had a genuine experience, which in this case was an accident, from which he recovered.

Now some people maintain that there are more objective ways. Some of them are using these Zen techniques, and there are various other techniques. But I maintain that there's a very simple formula to follow, if you can put it in a formula, and that is: if you seek, you shall find. And according to the laws of physics—which apply to spiritual laws as well—the laws of physics say that results are proportional to energy applied. And spiritual success is proportional to energy applied.

You can't do it by going to church one hour a day in a half-hearted manner, one day a week. You have to put your whole self into it. You have to make up your mind that you're after it, that's all; you're not just going to play around with it or use it as conversation over a beer. And if you are dynamic you can come through—a desperate dynamic.

Now I discovered something when I was about 21 years of age. I hadn't really had an experience of any sort, but it dawned on me—as I told you, I started off with a faith search, expecting that by believing I would get somewhere. I was rather impatient; I didn't intend to put the next 50 or 60 years into believing something that I didn't have any assurance of. So I dropped it and went into objective searching.

[break in tape]

To be continued….


1. Rose said 32 in the original talk, but later he re-calculated his age relative to the year of his enlightenment experience (1947).

2. "Zen, Spiritual Steps & Spiritual Systems" talk.

3. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samadhi#Sahaja_samadhi.

4. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keisaku.

5. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tulpa.

6. Solow, Victor D. "I died at 10:52 A.M." Readers Digest, 105(630):178-182 (October 1974). Reproduced at https://tatfoundation.org/forum2003-12.htm#5.


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