“There are thousands of people who work hard all their lives, without accomplishing anything which is really useful or enduring. There are thousands who labour intellectually or mechanically to perform work which had better be left undone. There are vastly more people engaged in undermining and destroying the health of man than in curing his ills, more engaged in teaching error than in teaching the truth, more trying to find that which is worthless than that which is of value; they live in dreams and their dreams will vanish; they run after money, and the money will remain while they themselves perish and die.
The obstacles which arise from the external world are intimately connected with those from the inner world, and cannot be separated; because external temptations create inward desires, and inward desires call for external means for gratification. There are many people who do not crave for the illusions of life, but who have not the strength to resist them; they have a desire to develop spiritually and to gain immortality, but employ all of their time and energy for the attainment of worthless things, instead of using it to dive down into the depths of the soul to search for the priceless pearl of wisdom. Thousands of people have not the moral courage to break loose from social customs, ridiculous habits, and foolish usages, which they inwardly abhor, but to which they nevertheless submit because they are customs and habits to act against which is considered to be a social crime.”
— With the Adepts, An Adventure Among the Rosicrucian, by Franz Hartmann (1910)
Two friends—one a TAT member, one a TAT friend; one living in Canada, one across the border in the US; one male, one female—have partnered to create a blog site, which they hope other TAT members and friends will enjoy and respond to.
My kids call me crazy mom. I like that. Stephen, the crazy Irishman from Braveheart, is how I most like to see myself. He’s a lot fearless, a little crazy and, most importantly, has managed to negotiate a mutually agreeable contract with God as it pertains to all things life with its rogue and dangerous shenanigans. This deceptively impossible feat has allowed Stephen an ease about himself. He laughs easily, readily. Yes, I like that.
In a slightly less delusional depiction of my self, I am your average, garden variety suburban mom of two, who one day, while trying to pay attention to life, accidently discovered an affinity for writing!
A FB friend invited her friends to a 63 day challenge. The challenge was titled ‘Attitude of Gratitude’; write daily about something you are grateful for. Simple enough I thought, and thus began the writing.
I did not anticipate how fun the challenge of trying to express life’s cornucopia of experiences would be! The deeper I looked, felt and dissected any given moment, the deeper I could see and feel and dissect! In trying to extract the feel of an experience, I would bump into the essence of that feeling sense. Then while examining the essence, I would discover a lingering mood, or atmosphere, that beckoned more attention! And now I must know, what is this curiosity that not only desires to look so deep, but is able to do so? What is this ever deepening sensitivity for movement, for life?
Subtler and subtler, challenging words, challenging expression.
In the fall of 2016 I met Paul. His calm energy and slow movements caught my attention. His depth of feeling kept my attention. We began a modern day pen-pal correspondence on everything from daily mundane interactions with the people around us (Paul can bring anyone’s life alive), critical views on women/feminism (critical is definitely my strength), love, trucks, goats, improv, sex, health and anything and everything that captured our curiosity, interest or made us laugh. Really, we’ve been blogging unintentionally for a while now!
In a larger, grander context we see many things similarly, but then dicker over the details. Other times we agree on the details but dicker over the big picture. In the end though there is love, friendship. Perhaps that is the grandest mutuality. Not at all unlike my own contract with God
There’s a scene in the classic film “Taxi Driver”, where Travis Bickle, the slowly unraveling anti-hero, is having his first date over coffee with his idealized angel Betsy. She tells him that he reminds her of a line from “The Poet”, a Kris Kristofferson song – “He’s a walking talking contradiction, partly truth and partly fiction.” Which pretty much fits me to a T, exhibiting for better or worse a lot of polarities, and providing a familiarity with often competing identities and outlooks. Head in the clouds, some college, but a blue collar job hopper for most of my life. My real education has been stolen from inspired tangents, raw experience, and a Zen teacher. By nature, I’ve always been more of an outsider compulsively observing the parade of life. And somehow crazy curious about human nature and Reality.
I think Sheri said all there is to say about our eclectic friendship. I see her as deep water. Someone who thinks before she speaks, who’s one of the best listeners I know, and one of those rare persons who’s able to be open-minded about both sides of an issue. She has a quick wit so it’s easy to improvise with her. Due to some intangible in her nature, Sheri has often served as a muse for my writing, encouraging many new things to come out I had no idea were there.
I once had a dream of having another head on top of the original, like an appendage emanating from the present noggin. In the dream I was told that I was using spiritual work to build this second head, the ‘double head-head’. Instead of using self-observation to see my present personality pattern, the pattern of experience built up through my present life forming what I called my ‘self’, I was engaging in a strange fantasy. I was manufacturing a second head, which I then ‘worked on’, rather than observing the original. This kept me safe. I didn’t have to actually face anything unpleasant about myself, for everything in this second head was created with the express purpose of keeping the ego intact and unassailed. This new head was all I really knew, it was ‘me’.
I could keep being ‘myself’ while thinking I was engaged in serious spiritual work. I could ‘see’ things about myself freely, for they would be recommended and okayed by the ego. The realization struck me that I had been doing this for decades, living in a false self-created ‘self’ that kept me a stranger to the relatively real me. I was a mystery to me, but not, apparently, to everyone.
After the shock of the dream, I began to look more closely at myself, hoping to catch glimpses of the double head-head, and how it worked. Listening to others when they offered advice or criticism began to hold value too. Group work suddenly held a new purpose. How did this work? Could I see it in others as well? How could one be so naïve?
Later, I came to understand what Alfred Pulyan had called the Ego1-Ego2 game, the ego splitting itself in two, and calling the separated part ‘ego’, thus keeping itself safe from scrutiny. And also Carl Jung’s work on the ‘shadow’, that hitherto mysterious dark side of which I was sure I was immune.
Working in an illusion serves the ego’s prime directive: survival. It feels threatened with annihilation when things such as self-observation and looking at one self directly are entertained. In order to survive, it creates an ‘ego2’, a second head, on top of itself.
This process has been going on all of our life. Many of our phobias, inferiorities, and grandiose imaginings about ourselves are only in this second head. Once we cut it off through self-inquiry, a form of productive thinking, we are free, free to begin the real work of facing the original head.
To give an example, we may feel we have something wrong with us, stemming from the negative criticism of a parent figure when we were too small to understand or protect ourselves. This may have given us a feeling of inferiority, for God as the parent has told us we are lacking. Later in life this feeling of something being wrong is what is answered to. We may be engaged in spiritual work to compensate for this: to fix our inferiority complex. In actuality, we are working on a fantasy, an incorrect idea of ourselves injected into us from outside. We may never have even begun to act on our innate positive potentials due to being sidetracked: trying to fix a false problem. Have we ever tried to find what we are, inside, without relying on what we have been told? Has this outside information kept us down, or inflated us with a grandiose expectation of things?
Living in our imagination will not set us free, for what we seek freedom from is our own false conception of ourselves. Take courage and patience, learn to look for the facts of your life, not the fantasy of the double head-head.
This past Sunday, March the 20th, I was privileged to talk with Regina Dawn Akers from Awakening Together. We discussed many topics relevant to the spiritual search, a good evening that I hope will be informative to those longing to look within.
The audio of the interview is available on their web site through this link:
Ever wondered about the connection between Zen and self-knowledge? If you have even a glimmer of interest in these matters, this book can open a new dimension for you. This much prized knowledge is delivered via the friendship that develops between a lost young man and a Zen master.
Nostalgiawest photographer Bob Fergeson has just released a new book, set in the swamps of Louisiana. Bob couches Zen lessons and a methodology for spiritual development into a simple story that allows the teachings to shine through. This book has something to offer the complete beginner and the more seasoned seeker – simple explanations of profound truths.
The book is available on amazon, in both print and Kindle editions. The Kindle version has full color photos taken by the author in southern Louisiana.
To enhance our probability of real spiritual growth, we need to get all the centers in our body/machine, the instinctive and moving mind, the emotional center, and the intellectual mind, all lit up and in working order. This brings us to maturity, or what’s known as good householder, so that we can stop living in the imagination and instead start dealing with what’s real. It’s easy in this day and age to get stuck in the teenager ego and refuse to accept responsibility or acknowledge the part of work in accomplishment. It’s necessary to learn to be capable of dealing with life head on, before we start thinking too much about enlightenment and a life with no resistance.
Richard Rose taught that we need to let go of the egos in the right order or else we risk becoming a functional idiot, useless in life, and to other people. If we remain immature too long, we risk having our minds become crystallized, fixed in an unreal belief system. It’s very painful to have to then break them up and start over to regain some resilience, a functional mind in good working order. It’s better to go through the pain of growing up and becoming an adult as an integral part of our spiritual path, rather than living in fantasy, waiting for our mythical spiritual ship to come in.
It’s the one thing that we can work on regardless; we can work on growing up into a mature man or woman, and therefore get used to the idea, in a practical manner, of what working on ourselves in a spiritual sense really entails.
This process of beginning work at our current level also takes us farther within, because we back out of the body, the hormones, and teenager dreams; and become older. Rose also said that he was trying to age a few young people. We can try and age ourselves; become wiser, more capable, more mature.
While we can’t force ourselves to surrender, or to be enlightened, we can work in terms of becoming more mature: at having a better mind, a wiser emotional center, and certainly we can get in shape physically. These are tasks which will develop a pattern of heading in the right direction, of not being afraid to work, of knowing what that really means rather than living in our head, imagining lights and magical powers and how everything will be handed to us because we’re special. This way, the way of the good householder, we’ve got something we can actually do; we can work on ourselves, every day.
We post the latest quote by Adya or Ramana, proud of our apparent spirituality. We agree with the wise men’s words when they tell us all the wonderful things we seemingly see in ourselves. For we have had our hard knocks; now we know and agree with the wise men. We’ve become humble, experienced, and oh so clever.
We agree with other people’s memes, the beautiful photos, wonderful quotes, yet strangely enough, never see our own contradictions. We fail to see how we act against our own best interests. How we never really work for the spirit, but stay in a perpetual dance of supporting and glorifying the all mighty ‘ME’. That feeling of uniqueness, our specialness; that which keeps us different and separate from others. Though when the need arises, we agree with them, and hope they agree with us. We may by turns argue with them, even yell and scream, stomp our big feet, but this is all just to maintain that separateness, that uniqueness. To help them as they help us; by loving or hating each other in turn. We can’t see how we never really change. We simply spin in the same old pattern of routine, base desires and needs, and never move towards anything higher. That would require that we go against that separateness, that specialness. But no, we continue our lazy dance, bumping into the furniture, oblivious, only hearing the music of our own special song.
Sooner or later the fun machine will wear out and die. Then we’ll have to get a new one; the party will continue. The dance can go on, seemingly forever, with maybe some new awkward steps thrown in here and there. But never with the realization that we contradict ourselves with every move. That the one thing we need to get to the bottom of all this madness, is to go against that specialness, that uniqueness, and instead find the similarities between us, the common ground that lies ever within, covered by the noise and distraction of our song. To go against ourselves; not in agreement, but in wisdom. To go against the feeling of ‘me’. Not in contradiction, but as a quietness, an acceptance. To move into the silence where we find we’re all the same. And that the uniqueness, rather than being the thing that helps us, has actually been our greatest enemy.
As I walk along the snowy trail
my face to the starry sky,
the night air feels as rain.
The animal self howls and moans
at the night, for it
knows of its illusory existence,
of its own eternality, its life and death.
For it heard, as I heard,
these words we spoke:
Rest easy in the Deep,
as the Deep….
for We are the Deep.
“The earth was formless and void,
and darkness was over the face of the Deep,
and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters.”
to distribute and preserve practical esoteric knowledge to help lead the serious seeker to a change of being.