No Religion Is Greater Than Friendship
by Paul Constant
A presentation delivered at the TAT Foundation April
Wheeling, WV, April 19, 2009
The history of the most eminent sages is one of men who never stopped working, if for no other reason than to amplify their vector by helping others.
~ Richard Rose, The Albigen Papers
How does "helping" accelerate a seeker's progress on the spiritual path?
What does it mean to help others? How does "helping" accelerate a seeker's progress on the spiritual path? All too often, we enthusiastically follow a spiritual path of self inquiry and embrace the rigors of self discipline. Yet, we often sidestep the need to work with fellow seekers, perhaps avoiding others who hold differing viewpoints. In this presentation, we'll examine the ultimate friendship, its place in the Threefold Path of Richard Rose, and the perils faced by the solitary seeker.
I am imposing nothing on you & expect nothing of you.
~ Alfred Pulyan, personal correspondence with Richard Rose
Alfred Pulyan corresponded with Richard Rose in a series of letters over a nine-month period in 1960 and 1961. [Posing as a seeker, Rose wrote to Alfred Pulyan about Zen transmission. Apparently, Pulyan never learned that Rose himself had an Enlightenment experience in 1947. Read Alfred Pulyan: Zen Master Without Lineage for excerpts of the letters. —Ed.]. Pulyan's profound statement about expectations and impositions should apply to every spiritual teacher and every seeker. In the context that Pulyan used it, a teacher should be utterly selfless and seek no personal gain from his or her students, nor impinge personal desires, rituals, or dogma upon others. Likewise, seekers should follow the same principles when working with other seekers, whether those seekers are on the same Essential level or on the levels below. In other words, a spiritual seeker's motives should go well beyond superficial acquisition.
There is no religion greater than human friendship.
~ Richard Rose, The Albigen Papers
When Rose speaks of religion here, he means those who desire a pursuit of Truth, including any organized entity that involves an eastern or western devotional, intellectual, or Essence-seeking collection of individuals. True friendship is, above all, what matters most.
A Personal Story of Discovery
Between 1982 and 1985, I was reading numerous books related to the spiritual path—Gurdjieff, J. Krishnamurti, Ouspensky, and many others of a much lighter caliber. In a bookstore near Pittsburgh, I stumbled on a "stuffer"—a small square of paper—that someone had placed in one of the books. Something about the words in the stuffer struck a chord with me:
A valuable follow up to this book is The Albigen Papers and The Direct-Mind Experience. These books give a system of discovery of esoteric matters, supplementing books which ably point the way.
* * *
This note is placed as a token effort by the local Albigen study group, and which, not desiring to proselytize, remains anonymous.
A few months later, I ordered The Albigen Papers, thus starting my search in earnest at the age of 22. From that point, I basically devoured Rose's writings—moving next to the Psychology of the Observer followed by his five remaining books—while still attending college in Pennsylvania. During the summer months, I lived with my parents, who were a little more than a stone's throw from Rose's farm in West Virginia. I was quite shy and certainly not prone to rashly attending a spiritually-oriented group. Still, something was lacking on my spiritual path, and so I put pen to paper and mailed the following letter during the summer of 1985:
Dear Richard Rose:
About two years ago, I discovered Ouspensky's "In Search of the Miraculous" and have since read many other related books. But now I am at a standstill. I realize that I need a school or brotherhood to help me, but where do I turn? Few of my friends seem interested in spiritual work. And surely, a good school would not advertise in magazines, newspapers, etc. Who, then, do I turn to? How should I approach others concerning these matters? I am very confused at this point and would really appreciate some suggestions.
Rose responded with a note a few days later: I am pleased to welcome you to the TAT group. You are invited—unless this is too short a notice of the seminar this coming weekend—at the farm. It is an exercise—in which we try to get the most in introspection. In those days, Rose arranged an "August Chautauqua," an annual event intended for those who were more serious about their path and usually more interested in the Albigen System in comparison to the TAT group at large.
During the TAT meetings that followed in 1985 and 1986, I clearly remember thinking: "I'm here to see Rose. It doesn't matter whether I associate with his students. What do they have that could possibly be of benefit to me?" To me, only Rose had the Final Answer that I sought. Although Rose would frequently discuss the threefold path, the value of true friendship, the "Laws"—and by that, I mean the Law of Extra-Proportional Returns and the Law of the Ladder—I wanted no part of it in those days. I thought I could follow the "twofold" path. :-)
Ladder Work: First Steps
Slowly, my attitude changed. I visited the farm on weekends when Rose wasn't around, often working side by side with other students of Rose. We chopped wood, repaired fences around the property perimeter, dug drainage ditches for roads, and countless other farm projects. You can learn a great deal about another person when working together—their strong points and their warts. And those fellows answered so many of my basic philosophic questions. In essence, they challenged my beliefs, and I obtained a depersonalized perspective by listening to various seekers who had been on the path for a while. Perhaps on the "spiritual ladder," they really were on the rung above me...
What else could an ignorant neophyte like me do to help someone else on the path?
- I organized the Albigen Study Group, which started in 1989 and ceased operations in late 1991. We met every other week in an esoteric bookstore. Although the group didn't take off and expand, organizing the meetings forced me to do at least three things...
- develop and deliver a variety of discussion topics;
- learn ways to communicate abstract personal experiences using my own words instead of Rose's; and...
- develop rapport with my fellows.
- I regularly stuffed thousands of books at about 35 bookstores while traveling around Pennsylvania. I discovered Rose and the TAT group through a book stuffer and hoped someone else might do the same.
- I regularly posted flyers at about 20 college campuses around the state, promoting Rose's teachings.
Fifteen years after meeting Rose, I became quite involved in TAT's business affairs, almost by accident. I didn't really consider it as anything spiritual. My attitude was that someone helped me, and I was filled with gratitude for their efforts. So, feeling that my personal spiritual ship was pretty much dead in the water, I figured the least I could do was help others to help themselves. And plugging away for TAT, friends on the path, and unmet strangers ultimately led to the surprise of my life...
A Selfish, Selfless Path
In today's world, we can completely immerse ourselves in outward-driven material. By that, I mean the voluminous information that is available at our fingertips through the Internet—Web sites, books, and audio and video. In such circumstances, we can easily overlook the need to interact with others with the rationalization that all knowledge is accessible without ever having to leave our homes. But real action involves going within as well as working with others and the "school" or Sangha. So allow me to build a case using an excerpt from the Sixth Paper in the The Albigen Papers:
Many people of philosophic drive feel no compulsion to mingle with anyone except their colleagues. But these people must be unaware of future growth possibilities for themselves, and they must be unaware that they must help others in order to grow themselves. This is the Law of the Ladder, which will be discussed later. The Ashram brings the different levels together that are needed for the growth of each member.
What does it mean to help others? How does a person get past the selfishness of a lone spiritual seeker? Are you overlooking valuable help on the path by focusing too much on a teacher? Perhaps your best ally is the person sitting next to you. A fellow seeker can serve as a mirror of sorts, showing you something about yourself that—without their help—remains blind to you. They point to errors in your beliefs.
Helping per se may not involve direct contact with others. It could mean working for the good of a spiritual group, or a seeker out there with whom you haven't met. First and foremost, you must develop an attitude whereby you want to help others—not out of an interest for personal gain—but because you take joy in helping. Helping should be natural to you. This doesn't mean you disregard your own spiritual work under the guise of helping others. Rose said we follow a selfish, selfless path. The selfish part means you desire above all else to find your Essence. You're not going to save your friends, family, or country from the woes of the planet. By selfless, I'll illustrate with an excerpt from Shawn Nevins' essay, Things to Do:
#4. Realize that you want to help others: The ego prevents us from reaching out to others. With persistent self-analysis, you will come to have true consideration for your fellow man—you will see your flaws in others and others' flaws in you. There is the thought that we should help others because it will help us in the long run, but this is not the same as truly wanting to help another. It is a milestone when we want to help simply because it is the natural reaction.
The Magic of Helping
How does "helping" accelerate a seeker's progress on the spiritual path? Notice that I said "help" and not "fix." On a practical level, we can only remain introspective for a limited time during each day. The mind tires of abstractions and looks for something more tangible on which to rest its focus. If that's the case, we can work on projects that may be of benefit to other seekers. It will certainly accelerate our spiritual vector and commitment to Truth. Even after his Realization, Rose offered his family farmhouse and property to spiritual seekers—many of who were strangers—thus demonstrating his resolve to keep spiritual work front and center in his life.
Surely you have all experienced a situation where you talked through a problem with someone else and arrived at a solution you wouldn't have considered alone. If you want to contrast that situation with a polar opposite, try a week or month completely alone in an isolation retreat. You'll learn the value of friendship. Truly, two heads are better than one.
And then there's the magical level, where perhaps a leap of faith is necessary to fully employ the Laws as Rose describes them:
Law of the Ladder. We do not visualize a single man upon each rung, reaching down, pulling up the man below. We find that the ladder is "A" shaped, pyramid in form, for one thing. There are less people on the higher rungs than on the lower rungs. We will be lucky if we can find one man who can help us, but we should be working with six or more on the rung below. We also find a new meaning for the brotherhood now. The man above may be pulling up the man below,—but they are pushing him a bit, at the same time.
The Law of Extra-Proportional Returns can be effected only with the cooperation of friends. The Law ... infers an unexpected increment. To draw an analogy, two factors (human) working together will accomplish more results together, than will either of the two factors in twice as much time. This is also known as the Contractor's Law. If this law did not exist, no contractor would hire men. It would all be done by individuals working alone. We apply the same principle to spiritual work. We must work in groups, in other words. You can call them brotherhoods or societies, or you can work in groups without a name.
Summarizing Rose and the Albigen System
In the late 1990's, I received a bundle of handwritten personal correspondence from me to Richard Rose—I think he saved everyone's letters. Over the years, I too kept letters that he mailed to me. On several occasions, rather than replying, he would hold my letters until I arrived at his home in Benwood or at the farm, and then we would discuss my questions.
The following email correspondence is not about me. Paul Constant is a fictional character who sought to know his True Source, but he is meaningless. I offer these letters as a ray of hope to you, the seeker. In all likelihood, my words will sound familiar to you...
December 17, 1987
At the last meeting, you mentioned that you periodically ask for a short summary of yourself and the system from some of the [TAT] members. Well, I thought I would take a shot at it myself and found it rather challenging. The best method I could come up with was to write as if to someone unfamiliar with the TAT organization. After I wrote it, it seemed oversimplified. I think it would take an entire biography to reveal any great details. Nevertheless, I hope it is of some use.
No seeker should walk the path alone if he can help it. Of course, had someone told me this three years ago, I would have had reason for argument. Even then, I was in the midst of Ouspenskian philosophy, which repeatedly explained that progress was extraordinarily difficult without a school. But I was going to make it alone.
After several books and an unsuccessful year later, I ran across a profound book titled "The Albigen Papers" by Richard Rose. Here was a book that finally spoke in my language, leaving behind all the nebulous mystical garbage. I didn't find it particularly shocking. Instead, I found it a delight that someone was writing about familiar societal absurdities. More importantly, "The Albigen Papers" sparked a tremendous craving for additional roadmaps.
A year later, after reading all of Rose's books and after some intense personal debating, I decided it was time to make a move—I was going to visit the TAT farm. I thought it was a big move, really. Mr. Rose answered the phone when I made the call. After explaining that I recently joined TAT and was interested in attending the meeting, he knew who I was. I found it comforting that TAT was not a large impersonal group.
My first visit to the TAT farm was during one of the Chautauqua's. I distinctly remember that early August morning. To begin with, a question was asked of everyone on what they wanted out of life. I was dumbstruck by the sudden silent attention of the group when it was my turn to answer, so I mumbled "Wisdom." Of course, I was spared the overall shock of listening to Rose's lecture for the first time since I knew some of his philosophy before I ever knew him.
During the next year, I regularly attended the TAT meetings. The premise of the TAT Society is interaction with fellow inquirers so that one can expedite the journey. At that time, though, I saw no value in the TAT group. I only came to listen to Richard Rose. In fact, in retrospect, I may have bordered on the emotional/devotional type. The fallacy of this attitude was revealed in time. Not only did I begin to exchange valuable information with TAT friends, but I was finding that Rose was helpful only to a certain degree. In other words, expecting him to do the pushing instead of myself—I think this was simply laziness on my part.
A second frustrating period was marked by a tremendous lack of faith in myself. I would listen to Rose's stories and his monumental determination to find the Truth in his earlier years. I thought it was inconceivable to match that determination. However, with time, I began to see more of his human qualities. He too, had encountered pitfalls and stumbling blocks, and had made mistakes along the way. For the next two years, Richard Rose would shatter every preconceived idea of what an Enlightened man was supposed to be.
Once, I was asked to summarize the Albigen System in a nutshell. With great difficulty, I stumbled over some fragmented explanations without really providing an adequate answer. After some time, I decided that it couldn't be summarize so briefly. But I think an attempt should be made (from my perspective) to highlight the important benefits of the system.
The Albigen System substitutes a scientific approach for the mystical; doubt and introspection for belief. The approach involves the improvement of intuition through self-observation, and conditioning this intuition with logic. In addition, the method entails a conservation of energy: you can spend it by thinking about or doing thousands of useless little things, or spend it wisely by focusing on thought processes or by asking yourself who's doing the observing. Much information can be gathered from fellow seekers, such as valuable books or other ways and means to keep the head on the problem. This information is not to keep up to date on philosophy, but to attack the problem from new angles. Perhaps the greatest value, and yet the most overlooked by his listeners, is Richard Rose's "Between-ness" approach. The proven theory employs holding the head "between thoughts" to provide an avenue for unlimited "happenings" on the physical, mental, or spiritual level. I believe Between-ness will be uncovered in the future, when it will be more easily understood, and when Richard Rose will be looked upon as a frontiersmen of this science.
[Between-ness works on a macro scale and a micro scale, although the two are intertwined. In "The Practical Approach" from Psychology of the Observer, Rose says, "We begin to notice a motion within the head. The physical head does not move, but we become conscious of a mental head that literally turns away from a view. When you are able to turn this internal head, whenever you wish, without any inability to continue thinking, you are half way home." Also see Ultimate Between-ness by Bart Marshall. —Ed.]
In summary, Richard Rose has been a success at what 99% of the population considers nonsense. He does not ask that you believe—only that you doubt. He gives ideas on what worked for him, in his lifetime, and leaves his listeners to decide if it is useful. He is probably the most sincere person I know—he "walks what he talks" so to speak. And he will be the first to admit uncertainty when he does not know. At times, I find it difficult to discern between his personal philosophy and the philosophy, but in the end it may not matter. Whether it's common sense advice or methods of introspection, I find immense value in every conversation.
Again, that's a summary I wrote in 1987—a summary that Rose informally requested from each group member. You may wish to consider writing a summary of your own. Take stock in where you are today, your current perspective. How has your perspective changed since the door to spiritual work opened for you? Are you now ready for true friendship?
Before I end, I'd like to remind you about the flip side of friendship. Too many of us rely on teachers and friends to satisfy spiritual, emotional, and physical needs. We should constantly be on alert for the mind's tendencies to seek out crutches. Crutches are not true friends.
In closing, I'll read a few sentences from the book I Am That: Dialogues of Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj. And while the words may seem contradictory to my presentation, they serve as a stark reminder that the spiritual path is indeed threefold:
Question: Life itself is a nightmare.
Nisargadatta: Noble friendship (satsang) is the supreme remedy for all ills, physical and mental.
Q: Generally one cannot find such friendship.
N: Seek within. Your own self is your best friend.
» Read about "The Way" within the threefold path in a presentation transcript titled Jacob's Ladder: A Direct Going Within.
» Read more about Rose's teachings in Experiences with Richard Rose.
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