Ben Rainey – Musician and long-time spiritual practitioner, Ben is a popular presenter at TAT gatherings. Read Gatha and The Scent of Longing for samples of Ben’s poetry.
Francis Bennett is a spiritual teacher in the contemporary, non-dual spiritual tradition. He offers a blend of the Buddhist traditions he deeply studied, the contemplative Christian mystical tradition which he lived during his many years as a Roman Catholic, Trappist monk, as well as the Hindu Advaita-Vedanta teaching of Sri Ramana Maharshi. Francis has worked in ministry in the area of pastoral care in the hospice movement and as a hospital chaplain. He tells the story of his spiritual life, and details his preferred spiritual practices, in his book, “I Am That I Am.” Please visit Francis’ site: http://findinggraceatthecenter.com
Yoga and meditation instructor, Leesa Williams has been a long-time spiritual seeker who has been influenced by TAT, Linda Clair and Adyashanti. She currently teaches conscious relaxation at a local college and runs a self inquiry group in Lynchburg, Va.
As one of TAT’s first members, David Gold worked closely with TAT founder and spiritual teacher Richard Rose and documented those years in his book “After the Absolute”. Following that period, Dave helped guide and mentor thousands of young people with the college-based Self Knowledge Symposium in Raleigh. In recent years, Dave worked directly with Spiritual Teacher Andrew Cohen and his EnlightenNext organization. While drawing on his life experience in business and family, Dave promises to engage those present as a lifelong seeker who recently became “an eternal finder.” http://davidrgold.com
Rapport facilitator Michael Gegenheimer is an early student of TAT Founder Richard Rose and has presented at a number of TAT meetings and works with a local group in Columbus, Ohio.
In his book, Psychology of the Observer, Richard Rose illustrates a retreat from the mind’s frailties through Jacob’s Ladder. Paul Constant will do a walkthrough of Jacob’s Ladder to illustrate Rose’s methods of finding our way back to our Source. For a sampling of Paul’s writings, visit http://www.searchwithin.org, or read some of his essays in the TAT Forum.
The registration deadline for the June Gathering is Friday, June 6th.
Franklin Merrell-Wolff gave two favorable conditions which he felt were vital to success in the spiritual search: a desire for liberation, and a spiritual guru. The serious life-long commitment, coupled with a realized teacher, whether within and/or without, were indispensable helpers on the Path.
He also had a list of Barriers to Recognition:
The first being Egoism,which though it can bring greater power to the task of solving the problem, it gives unusual difficulty in rendering the microcosm fluidic.
Somnambulism, a tendency toward wakeful sleep, is a barrier through weakness rather than strength in the subject-object field, though this type is more accessible to induction, or transmission. Training in self-determination and a strengthening of the individuality is needed here.
Sensuality, being the opposite of spirituality, is next. All desire for sense-based pleasure(or pain), carries our attention in an outward direction, toward illusion and nothingness, away from the Source Within.
False predication, or the reversal of value, was the last. We fall into the error of projecting our own eternality onto the objects in consciousness, and place the illusory nature of objects onto our own awareness. We wonder how the universe evolved consciousness, when the correct question would be how did the universe come to be taken as real.
“Recognition actually is a spontaneous induction out of Spirit Itself. Man’s personal effort merely removes barriers in his nature that inhibit this spontaneous induction.
“Awakening is re-integration for the individual consciousness of the inseparable parts that have been, apparently, divided. Thus, this Awakening does genuinely destroy the universe, in the sense of Its being a power over the Awakened Man. The latter, after the Awakening, may focus attention upon and act within the relative universe at will, but the significance of his doing so is precisely that of entering a dream and consciously playing a part in it.”
” When two subatomic particles where one is the negation of the other, such as positron and electron, are brought into conjunction, the result is mutual destruction–in their place a flash of radiation that spreads indefinitely throughout space. So also is the effect of the mutual cancellation of all dichotomies of experience and thought. The flash of radiation that spreads indefinitely through space is the symbol of the Enlightened Consciousness. To achieve the mutual cancellation is to effect the Mystic Death, and this requires faith and courage. ” – Franklin Merrell-Wolff
As we go through life, and the path of spiritual seeking, we find we have many ups and down. Upon closer examination, this emotional roller coaster is seen as being caused by identifying with a succession of images, which tend to cancel and replace each other in our never-ending quest for a secure identity. We completely identify with a pleasing image, say that of being a sincere seeker of truth, only to have the facts show otherwise. This can lead us into a negative state, and to fall back for security on a previous image, possibly even a negative one. Since any image is better than none, we will even cling to ones of self-pity and loathing if need be. Anything other than facing the self-less void of no-image. Soon, our energy may recover, we may get a lucky break, feed on flattery and hope, and then identify with an image creatively based on the new, positive circumstances. As life goes on, the circle of identification with the ever-changing parade of images continues. If we are lucky, we will tire enough of this zero-sum game to perhaps pause,… and begin to question the entire process.
FranklinMerrel-Wolff speaks often of the subject-object consciousness, the Transcendent Consciousness, and the difference between them. Let’s take a look at the subject-object realm and see if we can relate it to the above predicament. We first get into this mess of needing a self-created image to identify with, when we are first brain-washed into believing that the world, or mind-created images, are the reality, and our own awareness, an illusion. Wolff calls this ‘false predication’. This happens before we are wise enough and strong enough to resist, even though we may know better. Soon the magic spell of hypnotic conditioning has done its work, and we are hopelessly dependent on mind-created images, or objects, for our very sense of being. We even create a subject-image we call “I”(ego) which we soon become so taken with, and let it so close to our hearts, that we forget our real Self, and come to completely believe in this “thing” we call “me”. The false universe of the subject-object consciousness is thus brought to a level of value far and above that of its Creator.
Since this false universe is based upon a false premise, it must be continually re-created. As the actions of life are played out, we must continually re-act to them, life being change and flux. The action dictates the form of the reaction, thus the subject (ego) is continually being modified by the object (world, inner or outer). Soon enough, the action-reaction pattern is taken to be “my life”, and even “me”. We become so engrossed with this pattern that we believe we are actually seeing a real, stable reality we call the world, from the likewise stable point of our ‘self’. We never notice that this ‘self’ is a continually changing reaction-pattern wholly dependent on circumstance,… until something goes wrong.
Most of us are unlucky enough to put off questioning the dream of life until tragedy and trauma interrupt. Some, such as Merrel-Wolff, had an in-born intuition waiting to speak when conditions were ripe. For those of us who need a more forceful wake-up call, the realm of action-reaction must provide. Once we receive this blow to the head, called by some the “first conscious shock”, we begin to question our previous belief-system. We may come to hear from others who have been down the road before us, that there is another way of looking, a clearer, more direct method of seeing. We may get the feeling, reinforced with strange facts, that the world is somehow the reverse of what it appears, that things are somehow “backwards”. Our guides may hint that we have been fooled by experts, and have now become experts at fooling ourselves.
If we are lucky enough to meet teachers such as Franklin, we may pick up something valuable from them, an induction, not on the level of our usual perception. We may come to feel as if an inner light has appeared, an inner gong has sounded, and a part of ourselves that we had long forgotten has awoken. We are thereafter, never the same. We have become aware, though perhaps dimly, of the Transcendent. There is now the realization of the possibility of reconnecting to the Transcendent Identity we have lost. We now turn our attention Within, and perhaps find that we are Eternal, and that this Soul we Are and ever have been, is directly connected, via a Current, to Its Indefinable Source. It may take the commitment and work of a lifetime, but we have come to know there is no other task worthy of our time. If we persevere, we may make the jump from subject-object consciousness to the Great Space, the Infinite Capacity, where subject and object cancel each other out, and we Recognize our Self as having no boundary, free of the chains of subject-object, the endless suffering in the shifting sands of identity-as-image.
Whatever I had been doing was serving me. Robert Adams has said “Every desire every urge is a search for the Self. But we’re misdirected”. I’d agree as it seems my path has turned out to be one of reorientation. Finding my way now to a point that must be reconciled with myself. – Tim Howell
I started seeking as a finder. I joined an eastern Bhakti path early in youth, complete with a guru and the promise to clear my way to God. It afforded me a direction, meaning, fellowship and family. I left the path after being disappointed and finding it unable to fulfill its promises. Leaving a committed path after 20 years was no easy matter. I had however gained a direction in life that had in the least given me a practical ego. Here my attitude towards spiritual transformation led me truly to become a seeker. I made an intention to look in all directions, turn over every rock however mundane. I had had a guru so it was easy for me to ignore the circus around the “stars” of groups and traditions I found. Looking directly into what was being offered during my search changed my focus as a seeker from the heart to the head. I dug into inquiry with quite an amount of zeal. I was largely solitary in my approach without guru, peers or friends on the way. After 5 years of this I made an intention to find someone with integrity to help me drive this new direction home. Almost immediately I found TAT and Richard Rose. Where I hadn’t felt any integrity from the spiritual types I encountered Rose seemed to personify it. I contacted the local rep and started attending get togethers. After a time the fog and confusions of all the various teachings and traditions, my beliefs and attitudes, began to par down. I was shown to see past them to what was more real. The path became one more accessible to me directly. It wasn’t on high and available to those who please a divinity or until one acquired the requisite qualifications .These new influences led to the recognition of the simple message that all the teachings and traditions east and west ancient and contemporary are trying to direct our distracted attention.
I thought at one time I had gone too far off. Going this way and that. Traveling away from the goal. Progress seemed slow and hard come by. Complaining about this to a friend he commented that I have never left the path. Whatever I had been doing was serving me. Robert Adams has said “Every desire every urge is a search for the Self. But we’re misdirected”. I’d agree as it seems my path has turned out to be one of reorientation. Finding my way now to a point that must be reconciled with myself.
Being asked to write a Seeker’s Story by Tess, poses an interesting challenge for me. Although, for a long time, people have told me that I should write, for as long, I have found this peculiarly difficult. Even determined attempts to do so would wilt under an enervating sense that it just didn’t feel right to do so. This would grow into a kind of revulsion if I tried to write about myself, particularly if the slant was in some way spiritual.
Recently I read Black Elk Speaks, the dictated autobiography of the Ogala Sioux medicine man.
I found myself nodding in agreement whilst reading his opening words: ‘For what is one man that he should make much of his winters even though they bend him like a heavy snow? So many other men have lived and shall live that story, to be grass upon the hills.’
Despite fighting against the army and cavalry to save his people and homeland, he witnessed their massacre and loss. He travelled abroad with a wild west show and lived on to old age to finally share his story with the poet Reinhardt, but he would still claim that ‘this is not the story of a great hunter, or of a great warrior, or of a great traveller.’
He explained that although the incredible adventures of his life, ‘may come to seem to be the very tale itself,’ in truth, ‘it was the story of a mighty vision given to a man too weak to use it; of a holy tree that should have flourished in a people’s heart with flowers and singing birds, and now is withered, and of a people’s dream that died in bloody snow.’
In his final words, Black Elk called out to the Great Spirit, in the frail voice of his age and dereliction, ‘ With tears running, O Great Spirit, Great Spirit, my Grandfather- with running tears now, I must say the tree has never bloomed. A pitiful man you see me here and I have fallen away and done nothing. Here, at the centre of the world where you took me when I was young and taught me. Here, old I stand and the tree is withered, Grandfather, my Grandfather.’ When I read these words, I want to stop writing my own because what offerings are they in comparison? And who am I to do so?
But it is the words that follow that give me pause for thought, ‘ It may be that some little root of the sacred tree still lives. Nourish it then.’ Aye, Black Elk, my silence is not worthy of you, and if you can raise your frail voice to the Great Spirit, I’ll raise mine for you and for the nourishment you so desired.
And so it comes to be, that after all this time, I am asked to write three times in one day and it seems to me that the universe is telling me to do so as if shouting in my ear to be heard through the cankered wax and deafness of my disbelief. And though I am not on a mountain, nor a medicine man, but sitting in a chair in my living room, still full of misgiving, I ask you Great Spirit to help me.
As I was walking home this evening from work, through the cold and dark of an early winter’s evening, a man crossed the road in front of me and with swift, aggressive purpose smashed the ground floor windows of a house with a hammer. The violence was stunning in the sleepy fishing village where I live and I was the only person on the road. After phoning the police, the man disappeared as quickly as he had come, I wondered that if the hexagram patterns of life are an I Ching of meaning, what would this mean for me? I wondered too about the dream I had last night in which I ran desperately through the streets and markets of an Asian city knowing that I was going to miss my flight. I wondered too about my father dying hopelessly and slowly from cancer bereft, it seems, of even the smallest root of the sacred tree in the wasteland of his despair.
Is it presumptuous of me to conclude that this is the tableau of a warning that I would be foolish to ignore, as I have ignored gentle advice and encouragement for many years, and that the truth will out, if not with shouts, then with the swift aggressive purpose of Job’s devastation?
The night before Halloween, I lay awake, death-suited, thinking of my father, worried that the physical pain that had begun to afflict me was, in some way, my body’s reaction to the contamination of his fear in a sympathy of cancer. Eventually I slept, to be woken at 6.00am by my two young sons of six and three dressed in their halloween costumes, standing by my bed. Torin, the eldest, was dressed as a skeleton, and Lachlan as a wizard with a pointy hat and long white beard.
‘Daddy,’ said Torin, ‘ I have to tell you my dream.’
‘What was that?’ I replied, bemused by their costumes and seriousness.
‘ I dreamt I was walking through a graveyard, Daddy, and I was scattering seeds amongst the gravestones. As I looked down, I could see that trees were growing up beneath the gravestones and pushing them aside, and as I looked around, I could see huge trees growing everywhere where there were gravestones, and I danced for joy, Daddy, because I had done such a good job.’
Aye, Black Elk, a small root flourished in my boy that night, and through him, it nourished me. And I heed your warning Dad, Great Spirit, Grandfather to my boys – the Buddhists always say that the blessing of angels can come in terrible forms – and I honour your devastation, your dark night as holy ground, and it is for you that I offer these pages, these sacred leaves from our branch, so that your pain may prove fertile ground for the nourishment of the tree where birds are singing and flowers grow.
Once you allow the ego to grab a direct experience (say of love, selflessness, or beauty), it will claim ownership, and you may never actually go back to experience the eternal quality in real time again. Instead, the mind will merely reference the memory of the experience. The ego is perfectly satisfied with memories or imagination, being unable to tell the difference in value or meaning between imagination, memory, and direct experience. We will tell ourselves we ‘know’ all about the experience when we’re actually no longer in direct contact with it, we’re just referencing an old memory, and then playing about in the imagination. It’s a subtle but ruthless trick that takes us out of present awareness and places us in a time-based illusion of the mind. As long as we believe this easy way out, of never having to be in the moment again by using memory as a cop-out, we no longer exist. We have instead become the ego of “been there, done that”.
” When a man remembers himself he seeks not to be identified with his Personality. He seeks another feeling and sense of himself. He seeks to not know himself, as it were – to empty himself of himself. He makes himself passive. He wishes to receive something that has hitherto not been granted him. He seeks to lift himself above himself – above the noise of himself – above the inner clamor of negative emotions….” – Maurice Nicoll
I passed through a deep crevice at twilight,
And I saw a narrow vista of trees,
Magical in the mists-
Vocal to the hush of meaning,
Whispering to the wisdom of shades,–
Before the backdrop of eternity. . . .
And I had a friend. . .
Whose dust with mine was not the bond,
Whose love with mine was not the bond,
Whose teaching with me was not the bond,
Both of us had been to this same place,
To the twilight in the narrow crevice,
And because of this place, we are eternal.
– Richard Rose
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