The Forum for Awareness
Full Index of Issues 1 thru 14
Volume 1 Number 2
Now we're in the publishing business with both feet and are happy that we've made the jump. TAT members have been discussing the idea of a journal for several years, and there is much pride and enthusiasm behind this project that will contribute to its success. If you are newly-acquainted with TAT or have simply picked up this Journal, you are warmly invited to join in the support and enjoyment of the magazine.
We are calling it, "The Forum for Awareness" because TAT Journal will draw on the awareness of you, our readers, who have so much to contribute from the diversity of fields which you have investigated. Are you an astrologer, interested in nutrition and healing, or a student of comparative esoteric systems? We would like to hear from you on these subjects or on any that relate to the inquiry into the nature of man, mind and the universe. Do you have an opinion or comment on something that you've read in TAT Journal? Let us know about it. We want to air all sides of an issue.
We need your support as writers and as subscribers. In exchange for that support we promise to put together a stimulating and informative publication that we will constantly seek to improve. The pages of the TAT Journal are open, so that we can share our accumulated knowledge and wisdom.
Editor: Paul Cramer
"Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house." (Matt. 5:15)
A Glimpse of Nothingness by Janwillem van de Wetering and The Conquest of Illusion by J.J. van der Leeuw.
The TAT Foundation is a non-profit, tax-exempt organization formed to provide a forum for philosophical and spiritual inquiry on all levels based on the principle that cooperation and interaction with fellow inquirers can expedite ones own investigation. The TAT Foundation was set up to fund and encourage workshops, intensives, Chautauquas, study groups and related services. This magazine is one of those services. The intent of the TAT Journal is to promote the goals of the TAT Foundation by providing a readers' forum and exchange.
Editor: Paul Cramer
Associate Editor: Louis Khourey
Staff Writer: Michael Baldrige
The TAT Journal is published quarterly by the TAT Foundation...
© 1978 TAT Foundation. All rights reserved.
"Who am I?" (That means you!) One answer is that you are the only person who can answer the question, "Who am I?" So we are presenting the kind of material in this issue of TAT Journal that may encourage you in your efforts to find out, by making it clear that the only instrument you need to carry on your research is your own mind, and the only resource you need to draw on to make continued progress is a curious intelligence.
Its all too often that the authors of books, leaders of groups and even editors of magazines bestow their wisdom imbued with the implication that there is an unbridgeable gap between author or teacher and reader or student. And even if such a feeling is not intended, the neophyte may create it himself, despairing that he will ever be able to read all of the books or do all of the exercises that would admit him to the imaginary "society of experts."
Certainly, there can be value in familiarity with a philosophic or symbological system such as astrology, the qabalah or esoteric Christianity. But infatuation with a set of terminology can impair one's understanding of life. The "expert's" tool may become a tyrant, and the person who seeks knowledge with a subtle, common sense may actually learn more than the author whose "learning" he so admires.
Meditation and Alchemy
by Hans W. Nintzel
The Psalmist said: "My meditation on him will be sweet. I will be glad in the Lord" (Ps. 104-34) and "Give ear to my words oh Lord, consider my meditations" (Ps 5-1). We even find the idea of meditation in the very first book of the Bible where we read: "And Isaac went out into the field to meditate" (Gen. 24-63). In the New Testament Jesus gives advice along these lines as: "But thou, when thou prayest enter into thy closet and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to the Father which is in secret and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly." (Matt. 6-6) This admonition was adumbrated centuries before in the Old Testament, Psalms 46-10, "Be still. And know that I AM God." The ancient Hebrew canonical text, the Zohar, refers to two kinds of prayer. Those that are words of the mouth and "the Prayer of Silence," those that are the secret meditations of the heart. The Prayer of Silence is said to be a silent, unexpressed and inexpressible type of Prayer which conceals the Mystery of Perfect Union in the Divine Essence. Further, that the Prayer of Silence is actually spoken by the Divine Voice within us. (Zohar Pt. I, fol 169a) Meditation, or Dhyana Yoga, is spoken of extensively in both the Bhagavad Gita and the Upanishads. In the former (VI, 9-14) we find very precise instructions on how to meditate. The idea should be clear now that meditation is a very old practice and once was, or still is, espoused by the leading world religions.
[Illustration: The Tree of Life (ten Sephiroth) from Christian D. Ginsburg, The Kabbalah.]
It is the purpose of this article to show that not only is there a connection between all western tradition disciplines but that meditation should be a sine qua non in ANY spiritual pursuit, alchemy or otherwise. The American prophet, Edgar Cayce in his readings often talked of the importance of meditation. For example; "For ye must learn to meditate just as ye have learned to walk, talk." (281-41) Again, "Through meditation may the greater help be gained." (287-2) In the "Secret of the Golden Flower," Translated by Wilhelm we read: "Children take heed! If for a day you do not practice meditation, the light streams out, who knows wither. If you only meditate for a quarter of an hour, by it you can do away with ten thousand aeons and a thousand births. All methods end in quietness. This marvelous magic cannot be fathomed." In his book Raja Yoga, the great master of Yoga, Vivekenanda said: "The meditative state is the highest state of existence."
One of the early German qabalists was Eleazar of Worms (1165-1238). He was the spiritual leader of a group of qabalists that were ecstatics in nature. They heavily 'were into' meditation and contemplation. Another well known qabalist was Abraham ben Samuel, better known as Abulafia. Born in Spain in 1240, Abulafia wrote extensively on the qabalah. In his writings, he laid down rules for body posture to be followed by the student as he meditated on the Sephiroth of the Tree of Life. He also prescribed a precise breathing discipline to be followed. Such disciplines are, of course, also at the heart of every Yoga system and various others as well. Interestingly, the Sephiroth, particularly those of the middle pillar, seem to correspond nicely with the psychic centers known as cakras or chakras. The Sephira Malkuth corresponds with the Muladhara cakra and Kether with the Sahasrara. Kether, the receptacle of downpouring light and the Sahasrara cakra, the end of the journey for the rising Kundalini whence enlightenment is received. It might be argued that Yesod, being associated with the reproductive organs, is a better correspondence for the Muladhara and that Malkuth might correspond with the Kundalini. It could lead to some interesting discoveries to follow this out.
The Kundalini, of course, is that energy sleeping at the base of the spine. It is likened to a serpent coiled three and one-half times. The idea of Yogic exercises is to awaken the slumbering Kundalini and cause it to ascend the spinal column or middle pillar. As it passes through the various cakras, or Sephiroth these psychic centers are awakened and add to the spiritual growth of the practitioner.
Not too long ago, there lived a husband and wife who were spiritual teachers. They were, in addition, alchemists and, according to a little booklet entitled "They Made the Philosopher's Stone," they tell a marvelous account of how in fact they produced that Opus Magnum, the Stone. The Ingalese' books were many and covered diverse topics dealing with the occult arts, qabalah, alchemy and the like. In one of these, "The History and Power of the Mind" Richard Ingalese had much to say about meditation. The right kind and the wrong kind. Ordinary and "philosophical" meditation. Amongst other things he wrote: "You go into meditation for the purpose of receiving knowledge from the highest source of knowledge."
There are a few who have not heard of Albertus Magnus. This noted alchemist wrote on minerals and metals and in one of his tracts "De Adhaeredo Deo" we find a most insightful exposition of what might be called the mechanics of what meditation is. He wrote:
"When St. John says that God is a spirit and that he must be worshiped in Spirit, he means that the mind must be cleared of all images. 'When thou prayest, shut the doors.' That is, the doors of thy senses... keep them barred and bolted against all phantasms and images. Nothing pleases God more than a mind free from all distractions and occupations. Such a mind is, in a manner, transformed into God for it can think of nothing and understand nothing... except God, other creatures and itself it only sees in God. He who penetrates into himself, and so transcends himself, ascends truly to God. He whom I love and desire is above all that is sensible and all that is intelligible... sense and imagination cannot bring us to Him, but only the desire of a pure heart. This brings us into the darkness of the mind, whereby we can ascend to the contemplation of even the mysteries of the Trinity. Do not think about the world or thy friends, nor about the past, present or future; but consider thyself to be outside the world and alone with God, as if thy soul were already separated from the body, and no longer have any interest in peace or war, or the state of the world. Leave the body and fix thy gaze on the uncreated Light. Let nothing come between thee and God."
What Albertus Magnus is saying, of course, is that God is not corporeal and therefore cannot be communicated with via corporeal means. Yet, there IS a link to facilitate communication between man and God. This link is Mind. Through mind, man and God may interconnect, Unite. It is in this spiritual meeting ground of the mind that the manifestation of the Divine may blend with the essence of the mundane. The process for this is meditation.
Basil Valentine was a Benedictine Monk and an alchemist. In his book the "Triumphal Chariot of Antimony" he speaks of correct and incorrect meditation. One of the five pre-requisites he poses for success in alchemy is contemplation. Contemplation is a higher form of meditation. Valentine discovered incredible curative powers in a mineral-metal substance known as antimony. A substance that was known to be poisonous. He used various preparations of this substance to cure both physical and spiritual disorders of his brother monks. And where did the information come from that Valentine possessed on how to treat the substance to wring from it curative powers? While the precise answer was never directly given, Valentine indicates the information did come to him from God. It is not a difficult conclusion to reach that his revelations occurred during this contemplative state he suggests.
Let us look once more at the Qabalah and its connection with meditation. We find Leo Schaya, a respected writer on the subject, indicating that Chokmah, the second Sephira on the Tree of Life, has a second meaning in addition to the well known one of wisdom. This second meaning, in phonetic Hebrew, is Mahshabah, which is translated as either "thought" or more aptly, "meditation."
The Tree is usually represented as a uni-planar, flat lineal figure. However, qabalistic studies reveal the Tree to be operative in four planes or the "Four Worlds" as they are called. These worlds, Atziluth, Briah, Yetzirah and Assiah, actually represent levels of consciousness. The meditations on the paths of the Tree are designed to "change" these levels of consciousness. Aleister Crowley even defined "Magick" as the ability to cause changes in consciousness, by Will. Denning and Phillips discuss this aspect in their book The Magical Philosophy, which is the third in a series of five books dealing with magic, etc. In the appendix of this volume are to be found a series of exercises called "Path Workings." These are easily discerned to be meditative practices. The end of the exercises is to integrate the various worlds or levels of consciousness.
Note that the word Yoga means to join or to unite. From "yoke." Unite what? Why these levels of consciousness. To integrate them. Alain Danielou declares Yoga to be THE method of re-integration, in his book of the same name. Concerning changes of consciousness, Paul Brunton in The Secret Path had this to say: "You cannot show my intellect that God, the Absolute, the Spirit, call it what you may, exists, but you can show this to me, by changing my consciousness (i.e., raising the level of consciousness) until it can participate in the consciousness of God within me."
Carl Jung, the great Swiss psychologist and student of alchemy, was also a proponent of meditation as a means of integration of these levels of consciousness. In Ralph Metzner's Maps of Consciousness, we read: "The work of alchemy consisted in integrating and transmuting these (the four) elements, these levels of consciousness. They need to be integrated because in the normal condition of man they are in a state of conflict and confusion." This state of confusion that Metzner speaks of could well be what the ancient alchemists meant when they referred to "chaos" or "nigredo,"the blackness. Metzner further went on to identify this disorganized state of mind as being that condition Gurdjieff has in mind when he talked of the individual being besieged by "many I's."
J.F.C. Fuller, a one-time disciple of the Golden Dawn and a some-time biographer of Aleister Crowley, wrote a book on Yoga. In it he wrote: "The key to deliverance is meditation which opens the lock of concentration; then the door of attainment swings open and the aspirant enters a higher dimension of consciousness--the super-conscious world."
The integration process, of these various worlds, can be perhaps equated to those alchemical states known as solution and coagulation. Solve et Coagula. It must be borne in mind that there ARE two aspects to alchemy, the practical and the spiritual. Terms that apply to one aspect may well apply, in a different sense, to the other aspect. C.C. Zain points this out in his book on Spiritual Alchemy and A.E. Waite, that prolific translator of arcane texts, also makes a case for this. However, Waite may simply have vacillated from a stand on practical alchemy to one on spiritual alchemy. Paracelsus also had some thoughts on this subject and is quoted by Carl Jung in "Alchemical Studies" (Vol. XIII of his collected works) as follows: "The impure animate body must be purified through the separation of the elements." Sounds like Metzner! Paracelsus went on to say: "This is done by your meditating on it."
[Illustration: "Gurdjieff... talked of the individual being besieged by 'many I's.' "]
Dave Edwards in his fine book Dare To Make Magic posed an interesting question. He said that yes, it certainly was necessary to perform magic so that one may raise his (her) level of consciousness. Then he asked, "Why should we want to raise our level of consciousness?" The foregoing, a recurrent theme of the early mystical writer, Plotinus, seems to answer the questions nicely. We need to raise our levels of consciousness (and integrate them) in order to perceive the workings of a higher order. We cannot observe the workings of the machinery of the universe whilst still stationed at Malkuth. The veils of Paroketh must be rent and the abyss crossed ere we fathom the mysteries concealed by the black veils of Binah. In other words, to become more spiritual, we need to pull away from the mundane toward the spiritual realms. As we progress through the spheres, our vision becomes less clouded and our understanding increases.
The way to become attuned to vibrations of a higher order is to volitionally try and merge with them. One way of doing this is, of course, meditation. Therefore, it would be well to view meditation as a discipline quite eclectic and not posited on the east or west exclusively. It is a part of qabalah and alchemy. Charles Ponce in his book, The Kabbalah, reached a startling conclusion on a venerable old tome of alchemy, the Aesch Mezareph. He says, "(It is) an ancient alchemical treatise and it is unclear whether it is the product of Hebrew or Christian Kabbalism(!) It sets out the system of the Sephiroth in alchemical terms but was probably intended more as a meditational instrument than as a textbook of alchemy."
I think the point should be made by now that the ancient qabalists and alchemists not only advocated meditation, but they practiced it. While their rationale may certainly have differed, the end result, in the main, was enlightenment. Consider what a blessing this could be as we pore over the obscure and misleading words of the ancients. If the good Lord would shed some light on these writings, why we might be able to utilize them for good purposes. Well then, we have a fine recommendation from the very writers of these works on how to overcome that dilemma. Meditate.
Resting our case that meditation should be part of the daily practice of every alchemistical student, let us see just what meditation is. And isn't. The very word may conjure up a vision of loin-clothed yogis, eyes closed, legs wrapped about the back of the neck and off in a trance.
Actually this IS a possible form of meditation and it DOES have eastern roots as well as western roots. Today the eastern "Flavor" is dominant as we have a plethora of teachers, Gurus and masters of all sorts "pushing" meditation. Yet, there is an air of unattachment about it all. The Mararishi mahesh Yogi himself declares his "Transcendental Meditation" to be non-secular with no "isms" attached. A private researcher, Dr. Hugh Drummond is quoted in the March 1976 issue of Mother Jones magazine as saying, "The physiological benefits (more on the physiological benefits later) of meditation are pretty well established and appear to be independent of any particular method, ideology or cosmology." And so it is.
Meditation is the language of the heart. The Prayer of Silence. The outward prayer may be forced, embellished or even fake. The inner prayer cannot. No human can hear this and make a judgment, or be fooled. It is between you and that which IS--The Creator. This idea is so beautifully expressed by a Sufi poet and mystic, Jalal Ud Din Rumi who lived from 1207 to 1273. He was the spearhead of the Sufi movement as we know it today. In his mystical writings was the following beautiful passage, which while not necessarily referring to meditation per se, captures an essence. This prose is as follows:
"A voice came from God to Moses...
I am not purified by their praises,
'Tis they who become pure and shining thereby.
I regard not the outside and the words,
I regard the inside and the state of the heart.
I look at the heart if it be humble,
Though the words may be the reverse of humble.
Because the heart is substance and the words accidents.
Accidents are only a means, substance is the final cause.
A burning heart is what I want; consort with burning.
Kindle in thy heart the flame of love."
In more practical terms, meditation is a method of withdrawing from the outer to the inner. It is a way of stilling the mind. It is a state of active-passivity if you will. That is, while stilling the mind, one is actively "waiting," anticipating. An observed with expectancy, hushed expectancy. It is in the very real sense of the word, a communion. A meeting in the mind of the mundane and the Divine. In this place does enlightenment dawn. In this hushed stillness can we hear the voice of the One that pervades all. It is when we block out the outer distractions and noises that we hear what we yearn to hear. Our beloved. Our maker.
"How" to do it is easy enough. There are actually several "types" of meditative practices. How they differ is only in technique. One such method is that of Transcendental Meditation. Here, one is given a mantra in an initiatory ceremony. The mantra is a word or a phrase, usually in Sanskrit. The TM-er will sit quietly and allow his or her personal mantra, for such it is, to "come". It wells up from the inner being and "sounds" in the body. The "repetition" of the Mantra helps block out the distracting influences and has an influence of its own. That is, the mantra is especially selected for the practitioner by someone well-versed in this technique. Thus the mantra will have a particularly beneficial "resonant" effect on the practitioner. Almost like tuning a circuit to its natural frequency.
This is one use of a mantra. Another way is not so much as an "aid" but as a preamble. The recitation of particular mantra prior to meditation (as opposed to during meditation ala TM) will set the mood as it were. Every Indian child is taught a "universal" mantra known as the "Gayatri" mantra. This mantra is supposedly the "highest" mantra there is. Interestingly, Gayatri is Devi Gayatri or a feminine aspect of Deity. Mother Gayatri. Further, She is a solar deity and would correspond to Tiphareth on the Tree of Life. At this sphere we also find the Christ consciousness. So, on a Hebrew glyph, we find the Eastern concept of a feminine God equated to the Christian concept of the aspect of God which corresponds to the Egyptian slain God Osiris and there we go! Let me add that I have personally found the practice of meditation preceded by the Gayatri mantra an efficacious method. I can recommend it from my experience with it. But by all means try your particular likes first. They will all result, one day, in what Patanjali said was the breakthrough of the duality of devotion into the unity of self and God.
R. Straughn in his book Meditation Techniques of the Kabalists, Vedantins and Taoists writes: The object of meditation then, is to lead you back to your proper identity, to your proper role. That of an uninvolved seer (se-er) and Willer of events. In Jane Roberts book The Nature of Personality, this idea is dilated upon to some length. That we are the authors of the play, the director, the stage setters and the audience. Then we forget it all by playing all the roles of all the characters simultaneously.
Straughn also has a provocative little item in the same book. He provides information on Dhumo Breathing, a technique espoused by Lama Govinda and mentioned in the Tibetan Book of the Dead. Basically, this technique is used to raise the body heat, amongst other things. Straughn makes the following statement in his exposition oh the Dhumo: "The ambitious student, armed with what has been given here, should try to work out the correspondences between the breathing exercises and the sublimation of the procreative agent with the literature on alchemy, for they both deal with the same subject. A fact missed by those who, believing Yoga to deal basically with asanas and meditation, fail to grasp it alchemical aspect... the sublimation of the procreative agent: Mercury."
Meditation is really a very simple practice. It is one thing that can be done in the privacy of a room, whilst alone in a forest and, for those more adept at the subject, in a crowd unbeknownst to those present. However, many are too prone to complicate that which is simple. Father Elias, a member of the Carmelite Order in Haifa Israel, described it thusly: "In the first phase of meditation, we are alone in the dark room of the universe. We may think about God, we may talk about Him but He remains a distant object in our minds. In the second phase of meditation, all of a sudden God makes His presence felt in the darkness. He begins to illuminate our souls. He makes us aware of His presence, analogous to the awareness we have of the objects around us. Love has entered a new phase. It is love between Two. We become aware that God loves US!" In Practice of the Presence, Joel Goldsmith refers to meditation as "...an invitation for God to speak to us." Roy Eugene Davis, in his An Easy Guide to Meditation, reinforces R. Straughn's thoughts by saying, "...we appear (in meditation) to be at the center of it all, as the witness or the observer."
The practitioner of meditation will one day observe an interesting phenomenon. He will look forward to, nay yearn, for the moment of meditation. For some, it is the only time for a little "peace and quiet." Yet, it is more than that, much more. And even though, at the onset, meditation may seem a chore, it will soon become a much desired practice. The Irish mystic, George Russell, writing under the pen name of "AE", eloquently expressed this feeling in his beautiful and lyric book, The Candle of Vision. Referring to meditation he said, "The dark caverns of the brain begin to grow luminous. We are creating our own light. By heat of will and aspiration we are transmuting what is gross in the subtle aethers through which the mind works. As the dark bar of metal begins to glow, at first redly, and then at white heat, or as ice melts and is alternately fluid, vapor, gas and at last, radiant energy, so do these aethers become purified and alchemically changed into luminous essences, and they make a new vesture for the soul, and link us to a mid world, or heavenward, where they too have their own home. How quick the mind is now! How vivid is the imagination! We are lifted above the tumult of the body. The heat of the blood disappears below us. We draw nigher to ourselves. The heart longs for the hour of meditation and hurries to it; and, when it comes, we rise within ourselves as a diver under the sea arises to breathe the air, to see the light. We have invoked God and we are answered according to the promise of old." Russell was indeed a mystic but I bet he had an athanor hidden away in the closet!
A different view on the subject, a "now" view, is offered by Edwin C. Steinbrecher in his book Guide Meditation. This technique is a departure from what we might call "classical" meditation. It involves the use of a Guide as found on what can be called the "astral" level. The idea is to seek out someone or something that has been through it all before and can help us along, put us in touch with the data we seek. Steinbrecher explains his technique this way: "Guide Meditation is the product of the mingling of a number of spiritual and philosophical streams; astrology, tarot, alchemy, analytical psychology, qabalah and the Western Tradition which encompasses the Graeco-Judaeo-Christian spiritual heritage of the West. The Guide Meditation is a transformative process concerned with assimilating the disparate energies which exist in the human unconscious into the unified wholeness that is the awakened, enlightened being inherent in each of us, thus ending the illusions which cause separation, guilt and judgment." J.J. van der Leeuw said exactly the same thing, only in different terms and using a different "method" in his book, The Conquest of Illusion.
It might be well at this juncture to clear up, as best we can, the misunderstanding that often arises between what is known as "concentration" and meditation. The two are totally different but the difference, while real, is subtle. In Concentration Ernest Wood writes: "Meditation is a complete flow of thought about an object which you have concentrated on." As an example, Wood postulates a flower. We concentrate on it thinking, as it were, of its color, petals, scent and letting in these related areas of thought. This is concentrating. Then the thoughts might go, "Come in little flower, into my lonely mind. And as you meditate with the flower, soon you will be worshiping the flower and saying: 'Wonderful flower, Holy flower, forgive me, forgive my contumely and my pride.' And the flower will forgive. And there will be love and ecstasy. That is meditation."
Patanjali put it succinctly: "Concentration is the binding of the mind to one place. Meditation is continued effort there." And Wood again, in a different book, Mind and Memory Training, states: "Concentration ends where meditation begins. Concentration involved contraction of the field of mental vision but meditation involves its expansion. Concentration is the unwavering focusing of the attention on any object to the exclusion of any other object. One starts by thinking about an object, the narrowing down the field so that one thinks of the object until finally the whole consciousness is filled with this object." Rammurti Mishra would add: "And we become the object." (Fundamentals of Yoga)
In his definitive work on the subject, Concentration and Meditation, Christmas Humphreys defined the purpose of meditation being to "dominate the lower separative self, to develop the mind's own higher faculties towards a vision of life's essential unity and to unite this dual process into one continuous spiritual unfolding." In Yoga and Western Psychology Geraldine Coster formulates a set of 'steps' for meditation. These are:
(1) Sense of direction, or the will,
(2) the instrument of thought, or the mind,
(3) the object on which concentration is being attempted, and
(4) unobtrusive ideas or distractions.
She further, quantifies stages in the meditative process as being:
(a) selection of a subject,
(b) deliberation, and
She indicates that this is an awareness of the object as thought. The mind being transformed into the object. These three stages correspond nicely to what Mishra defined as:
(a) Conscious Mind,
(b) Sub-conscious mind, and
(c) Super-conscious mind.
These stages, dharana, dhyana and samadhi may also correspond to there levels of the mind, known as alpha, delta and theta levels.
Let us briefly examine some of the more or less "mechanical" aspects of meditation. What type should be used? What paraphernalia, if any? As to the former, W.Y. Evans-Wentz sets out a number of aphorisms in Tibetan Yoga and Secret Doctrines that apply well. These are (Listed under 'Ten Best Things'):
(1) For one of little intellect, the best-meditation is complete
concentration of the mind on a single object,
(2) For one of ordinary intellect, the best meditation is unbroken concentration of the mind on the two dualistic concepts, phenomena/noumena and consciousness, and
(3) For one of superior intellect, the best meditation is to remain in mental quiescence, the mind devoid of all thought processes, knowing that the meditator, the object of meditation, and the act of meditating constitute an inseparable entity.
This is as good a starting place as any but seems a little rigid. The really best thing is to try ANYthing. You will soon get the hang of it. Just DO it.
How about posture, clothing, incense and so on? The answer here is there is really no hard and fast "correct" set of rules. Whatever turns you on! If glowing candles or incense helps to create an atmosphere conducive to meditating, do it. Fresh flowers "feel right?" Go get some fresh flowers but remember this is a daily discipline and daily fresh flowers could be a little troublesome. As for clothing, the less clothing the better. Binding garments and such are really impediments and distractions. Up tight about nudity? Wear a robe or a blanket. What KIND of incense? Some say Sandalwood is conducive towards meditation. Can't prove it by me. I just like one that smells nice! Beads? Why not. Must they be Sandalwood or must they be rudraksha? Who says so? And posture. Well now, this IS an important point. The better the posture, the better will be the results. The "Lotus" posture is best. Why? Well if you consider the body to be a mass of electrical and nervous energies, the position of the parts of the body can make for good or poor "conduction" of these energies. They can also "shunt" energy to where it is best utilized. Maybe not the best analogy but it should do.
If you cannot, for physical or other reasons sit in a Lotus posture, do a free Lotus. How about simply sitting cross-legged? Or even in a chair. Really, the asanas are good, but many of us are just not oriented or physically constructed for a full Lotus or "the Thunderer." The "God" position may be just what the doctor ordered! (i.e., sitting "normally" upright in a chair). The main thing is to keep the spine straight. The ancient Yogis postulated some reasons for various postures and "mudras" (finger positions or gestures). The idea of the Lotus position, or at least a cross-legged posture is that it is an aid to the inspiration of breath as a regulatory device. Maintaining equilibrium was to regulate the vital heat of the body while maintaining an erect spinal column regulated the nervous fluids pervading the body and bending (slightly forward) of the neck help regulate the breath's expiration. Finally, the pressing of the tongue against the roof of the mouth and focusing the gaze caused the vital forces to enter the median nerve, the Sushumna. In other words, the erect spinal column along with the latter discipline aided in raising the Kundalini.
As our final "look" at meditation and the western tradition, let us now bring this spiritual discipline, for such it is, into the laboratory. Perhaps, just as alchemy can be demonstrated, we can find actual physical evidence of benefits provided by meditation. First of all we can consider a mental aspect. Dr. F.I. Regardie in his book Twelve Steps to Spiritual Enlightenment indicates that the act of concentration leads to the development of the will and an enhancement of the image-building process. That is, the ability to visualize is improved, a function of great importance to anyone treading the path of the magician. That this is so is verified by Dr. Roberto Assagioli in his book An Act of Will. We find there a series of exercises designed to strengthen the will and we discern that they are, largely, concentration and meditative type exercises.
For further evidence we can cite several scientific studies that have been performed. It is true that the bulk of these did concern themselves with Transcendental type of Meditation, but meditation it is. In SCIENCE Magazine, the March, 1970 issue, a study conducted by Dr. Robert Keith Wallace of the Dept. of Physiology, School of Medicine, Center for the Health Sciences in Los Angeles was featured. The summary of this study is as follows:
Oxygen consumption, heart rate, skin resistance and electro-encephalograph measurements were recorded before, during and after the practice of TM by subjects. There were significant changes between the control period and the meditation period in all measurements. During meditation, oxygen consumption and heart rate decreased, skin resistance increased and the electroencephalograph showed specific changes in certain frequencies. The results seem to distinguish the state produced by TM from commonly encountered states of consciousness and suggest that TM has practical applications.
Tests at the Harvard Medical Unit of Boston Memorial Hospital showed that oxygen consumption dropped sharply and carbon dioxide elimination also decreased sharply during meditation. In the April 1974 issue of "Psychology Today" we find that while using meditators in a study of blood pressure, Herbert Benson noted that 19 of his 20 volunteers had given up the use of drugs. According to their own testimony, changes in consciousness due to marijuana, LSD and heroin had become very distasteful since their introduction to meditation. Studies by the U.S. Army, the Greens at Menninger and countless other very rigid, very scientific studies show there ARE physical, measurable benefits to be gained by meditating. Even children benefit as shown by a study in the Eastchester, N.Y. public schools, conducted by F.G. Driscoll, supt. of schools. Tests showed that students who meditated were less anxious about taking tests, improved their grades and got along better with fellow students AND parents.
We are all on a beautiful spiritual quest after Truth. The truth about nature and the truth about ourselves, why we are who we are. Whence we came, whither we go. At the same time we need to be concerned about the care and feeding of the bodies that house these egos, these souls. Now if indeed meditation not only provides the meeting place for Divine communication but in fact provide mental and physical benefits, it would seem that practicing meditation should become a part of our daily curriculum. The evidence is overwhelming from all sides. Those who advocate physical enhancement through meditation prove it with their galvanic devices and electroencephalographs. Even the mental aspects of growth in will and visualization are a praxis that can be observed. And for spiritual growth? Countless millions will attest to a new serenity, a new peace of mind, to enlightenment and, at last, a merging into the vast and all pervading SOURCE. That which IS. God. Jehovah. Allah. Lord. Krishna. Brahm. The Solar Logos. Gayatri. By whatever name we use, we are enabled now to feel the fullness of the love of the Mother for the Child, to hear, to speak and be heard. Given this, shouldn't WE be meditating?
Turn inward for your voyage!
For all your arts,
You will not find the Stone
In foreign parts.
Memories of Past and Future
by Richard Rose
TAT founder, Richard Rose, has spent a lifetime in spiritual and philosophical research. In "Alfred D'Alibertti: A Vignette," he shares his memories of one of the men who meant the most to him along that path, a man of real stature who might otherwise go unremembered. Rose's short story, "Last Act," is a dream-like evocation of a man's thoughts before the curtain falls.
Alfred D'Alibertti: A Vignette
To the average layman there is nothing more boring than the meetings with or dialogues with, a spiritual person. A type has been cast that all spiritual people are supposed to fit into. The type or stereotype is that of a hypocrite, a person that is mentally sick perhaps, and a nuisance who goes about trying to convert you by shouting positive statements which in turn seemed to be needed more by the exhorter to shore up that which constitutes his faith.
Perhaps I have associated with a different breed of spiritual people. I have met a few men in my life who stood out, and yet the outstanding quality which they possessed was largely their own casual truthfulness. I could have said humility, but somehow I associate that word with hypocrisy. Many of the ministers and philosophers whom I met who described themselves as being humble were described by others as being tumid or hypocritical.
Alfred D'Alibertti was a minister. I never called him, "reverend," because I thought the term itself was hypocritical unless it has been earned. Alfred understood when I called him Mr. D'Alibertti that I was trying to be an honest rebel, and he knew that I was very fond of him and his family. If there has been a man who ever truly earned the spiritual title of "reverend," it was the man who never got it from me. But we knew each other, and like any really close friends, knew that we could depend on the other when the chips were down.
I met Alfred after talking to a friend of his in San Antonio, a Reverend Green, formerly of Steubenville, Ohio. I cannot remember Green's first name. Reverend Green had been interested in ESP, and had done some research with Sheldon Scott and Alfred. Green suggested that I look up Scott and D'Alibertti, when I returned to Wheeling.
Alfred and his wife were seekers in the true sense of the word. They did not make compromises for the sake of pollyanna or church-politics. To them, the truth was the truth. As soon as I talked to them a short while, I knew that I had enlarged my family. We decided to invite a few tolerant people to form a small group which would be able to get together once a week and discuss philosophy, religion or any interesting esoteric direction.
I have always said that a man must work spiritually on three levels. He must do something on the physical level, on the mental level, and these two levels make for or create the spiritual work. Alfred and his wife gave of their time, money and energy to help people. The esoteric research work which we did in our group constituted his mental contribution. And in true philosophic consistency, he had no spiritual dogma except helping and encouraging his fellow-man to look for the truth of things. God was the search, not some pompous announcement by some cleric who had not made the trip.
He also taught in the local high school, and did this because he could not survive on the receipts from his church. It was never his policy to pressure his congregation for anything. I know that all of this sounds superlative, and I will stop short because my words will not change Alfred's fact-status, which will live in the hearts of those who knew him.
I would like to leave with you some of his sayings. I got them from the little tracts that he dittoed off to pass out at each Sunday meeting. Alfred considered himself to be a liberal, but he did not endorse anything that detracted from the substance or energy of people. "Let's get this clear: your Minister is quite liberal in his Theology and in his conduct. He has never condemned drinking, smoking or friendly games of cards, bingo or what have you. But he does not hesitate to tell you that intemperate smoking may enslave you and do irreparable damage to your body, that intemperate use of alcohol can, and often does make some people incurably alcoholic, and friendly games are no longer friendly when they turn into downright gambling. In the Protestant Church, gambling is a sin."
"There are certain people who bark at the darkness, curse it vehemently, threaten to destroy it, but they are too indolent to light a candle. It is within their reach to turn the lights on, but they are afraid. They will even raise their children in the darkness they curse, and contribute to its blackness with money, submission and vote, but to hear them talk, they have the mouths of lions and the hearts .... of chickens."
This one is dated September 7th, 1958.
"With this copy we hope to have the time to fill this page with thought-provoking statements on religious beliefs, religious history and religious facts. We believe that religion is the most important force for good in the world, but its effectiveness can be greatly impaired by errors, delusions, credulity, superstitions, etc.... Religion is a tragic and criminal, evil when it is used to keep people in subjection through fear of "sin," the "wrath of God" and the eternal (?) flames of hell. Religion is being used today by unscrupulous men who are gradually infiltrating into every phase of society with the most sinister results. Of course there are many excellent highly educated men and women in such organizations, and occasionally they muster enough courage to complain. One thing they know: they are guilty of a lack of intellectual and moral integrity for their apathy and indifference and personal identification with organized fraud.
"If religion were at least skin deep, some of it would, in one way or another get into the blood stream and be carried to the heart. Religion is more like a costume. It only covers the skin....
"Conventional Christianity is not the moral philosophy of Jesus, but a distortion of his person and his teachings. It should be called Churchianity. Many Church members are not Christians but Churchians..."
July 27th, 1958.
"If God is within me so that I am a manifestation of God, how can I worship Him? I will be worshiping myself! That's it! Until I learn to worship myself humbly, sincerely and earnestly, I can never hope to worship God. Please think.
"God is the source-spring of all blessings. If you knew that such a source-spring is right in your very heart, would you worry? Wake up then to the presence of God within you.
"To 99.44% of members of all religions, God is something to be placated. God is an invisible overlord, demanding and exacting obedience and tribute. People pay tribute to this cruel, harsh, powerfully wicked chieftain in many ways: In India, some people who are faithful go to such extremes as traveling a hundred miles or more by rolling! In Mexico, on Good Friday, the faithful, clad only in short shorts and a crucifix around their necks, jump into clusters of cacti, often piercing their throats or eyeballs! The Protestant faithful hold rattlesnakes, often with fatal results! I have often wondered, if I were God, what would I want people NOT to do?"
July 20th, 1958.
"The following is an important Bible statement. 'Neglect not the gift that is within thee.' In a Church-religion, "sin" is the breaking of a church law. In a personal religion, "sin" is the breaking of a law which is related to self-development. The harboring of thoughts that degrade in any way is 'sinful.' Negatively speaking, the neglect of moral development is equally sinful. Hence the admonition: 'Neglect not the gift that is within thee.' What gift? The gift of life. The gift of intelligence. The gift of love. The gift of conscience. What do you say of a person with a beautiful voice who neglects it? The gift of music, or of painting, or of speaking--There are so many gifts given to people which are neglected!..."
Alfred had a very full crusade against childishness in religion,--and by childishness I mean the childish insistence by theologians to force the public to accept absurd beliefs.
On February the 16th, 1958 he wrote: "About 400 years ago a Protestant scholar computed the age of the world to be at his time, 3963 years old. Pope Urban VIII condemned such ignorance in no uncertain terms. Being a very smart man, and with the direct help from the Holy Ghost, he declared that the whole world was created in the year 5199 B.C. With penalty for unbelievers. (Alfred is here referring to the ex cathedra infallibility of the Pope.) 200 years later, after the penalty was worn out, theologian Lightfoot startled the world by placing the creation on Oct. 23, 4004 B.C.!"
On February the 9th, 1958, he puts the following arithmetic to work: "There are 1440 minutes in a day. This means that if a person who dies goes straight to heaven and wants to see Jesus for one minute only, he will have to sit in a waiting room with 1440 other souls for 24 hours until his turn comes. This is of course on the basis of 1440 people dying each day, and not counting the million of people who died before the time of Christ.
The whole thing is preposterous ... Jesus sitting' at the right hand of God on a golden throne ... are only figures of speech, and not material realities.
On October 21st, 1956 he wrote on sin. "In your minister's dictionary there is no such a word as SIN. A Christian does not believe in sin... there are only right and wrong."
I have skipped through quite a sheaf of weekly messages, none of which were as illuminating as his conversations in informal groups. He had a quiet way of pointing at things which people took for granted, customs or beliefs that did not deserve the attention given them. I remember once he was talking about the crucifix, and the devotional fetish that it had become.
"Why don't we worship the electric chair?" he commented. "Crucifixion was a very brutal execution in which we see Christ at his worst. Are we to remember him morbidly, worshiping and kissing the instrument used to kill him?"
I remember when he said this that it had not occurred to me previously, and probably had not occurred to thousands of other Christians, that the sanctification of the cross was the equivalent of universal Christian masochism or morbid fetishism. I can see that it is good to remember the brutal execution of a hero, so that by remembering we will never allow it to happen again. But when the remembering takes on the love of the process (of execution) then we are worshiping the sadistic procedure, not the hero.
Alfred believed that Jesus was basically a man, and that our first appraisals of Him should be practical, and not bloated with wishful thinking about celestial things that Jesus might be. He believed that Jesus was a good man, a saint, and an historical social revolutionary. He used to point out that Mary was evidently married, because Jesus had brothers. Jesus pointed at the divinity of every man, or the divine potential, and he may have been misinterpreted. His message was that we were all men, but we could be like Jesus, and discover that we had been a part of (children of) God, all the time.
Alfred did not accept Hell as it is accepted by many Christians. To him, either the Christian concept of Hell was wrong, or the Christian concept of a benevolent God was wrong. And he knew that he must try to point out these things to people, but he also knew that he had to do it gently, he did not want to fracture the faith of those that needed faith to sustain them, but he wanted to be honest and reassuring to those who were beginning to break the chains of blind belief.
He did a lot of work along esoteric lines, knowing that any path to Truth was worth the while, if it were sincere. It was through the effort of Alfred and John Copitka that I was able to find a genuine materializing medium, and witness a genuine materialization. We experimented with paranormal phenomena, and we spent several years at this type of research, meeting sometimes every Friday.
But his was a mind that did not plunge blindly into anything. He was able to pick out the frauds, and did not hesitate to notify our group when fraud was detected. He was sitting with a small group once, experimenting with table-tilting. One of the sitters had encouraged the sitting and had a habit of helping the table a bit. So Alfred reached beneath the table and caught and held the man's hand causing all phenomena to cease.
I often wondered how he managed to do all that he did. When I first met him he was very close to sixty years of age. Yet he was in the process of building his house. The D'Alibertti children, a son and daughter, had married and were living out of the immediate area. Alfred felt that the time had come to try to make things more comfortable for his wife. Their house had been in bad shape for years, so he decided to rebuild it.
He taught school besides his ministerial duties while all this was going on, and our "psychic" group met, as I mentioned, sometimes every Friday. And he spent a lot of time in hospitals, visiting the sick.
I am inclined to think that his schedule ultimately killed him. He was a short, husky man with tremendous energy and determination. He was also one of the kindest men that I have known. When he visited my house or the Copitkas, I noticed that he always picked the children up and kissed them, and talked to them with genuine concern for their positions and dispositions.
One day he had a heart attack while sitting in a chair. His passing was quick and unexpected, since all of us thought that his vitality would keep him going for a long, long time. My first reaction was a desire to put up a monument to him. It seemed that forgetfulness would settle over the town too quickly, and I knew that the town owed this man a lot. But his service dealt with intangibles for the most, and intangible services and acts of friendship cannot be seen unless they are written in history or granite.
Then it dawned on me, that perhaps I was doing something, or trying to do something that Alfred would not approve of. His life was a great success, because he lived to the fullest a life of service. This fact, and his knowledge of that fact, was him. And this Self would be forever immortal without my help, and without the reminders in paper or granite. However, I will retain, to the end of my days, the belief and fear that the members of his congregation never knew the real size of the man who was their minister.
This was the last act of the play. Old James Inman was a little embarrassed and yet nervous. Why, thought he, should a playwright be nervous about someone else's play? This was, after all, a rare privilege... acting about the directions of acting.
This was a room. It was large... large, but the corners and far sides were dimly seen. The far side of the room could have contained many people. If there were many people there the observer would never know, because things were hazy.
There were a dozen people there, grown people, and two or three children. There was an evident age gap. The children were four or five at the most, several little blond haired boys and girls. The men were no less than forty, and most of them were fifty or more. John Perry and Irving G. Grubb sat across the table from Inman and seemed obscured by cigar smoke. These were old acquaintances, but all the rest had been recent encounters for Inman.
John Perry was Russian and he never fully explained how he came upon the name of Perry. He was tall and heavy. A combination of an eager man, and an irritated man. He was always impatient to get to the Truth. He never did anything about it really, but he was always quick to criticize any signs of frivolous thinking in others.
Irving was also tall, and also had a fair amount of dark hair. But Irving was better built, not quite so heavy. Irving was dour and suspicious. When he talked to you, he turned his head away to a degree, and he always listened with a frown of disbelief. And when he began to talk or reply the listener always found a mind of conjecture rather than argument, and a general mood of compromise together with a patient reaching-out with questions that might bring the two points of view together rather than trying to force his own views.
Grandchildren are a spark of life for old people, but when the grandchildren reach the adult stage, there is no real urge to look after, or worry about great-grandchildren. The old men gravitate to the park, to the courthouse, or to some bench along a stream and indulge one another in meaningless comments which are always backed by meanings that all of them understand and never bother to try to translate.
This particular meeting of Inman, Perry and Grubb, and the rest, differed in that there was no small talk. There were no audible words. All of them had learned to converse adroitly by direct mind. A gestalt, a mood, or an entire philosophy was communicable in a couple of seconds. There would be a short lag... and each man's response could be picked up.
Inman was looking back ten years, and they all knew it. There was a group of young men and women. It took years of his teaching to convince them that they did not exist. They were gone, and now in a way he wished that they still existed. Yes, they still exist in Timelatch where he met them... exist to lesser or greater degrees, that is. They were upset when he decided to take a vacation from Timelatch for a few days. His first thought was to take a couple with him, but he could not decide which, if any, could stand to be away from people of their own age.
Those were good people. Most of them real warriors. And those who were not warriors were lovers. There are only two real ways to make the trip of life, Inman always insisted. A person must fight desperately for his goals, or he must love the goal without quibble or reason.
The ones who turned out to be warriors were Frantice, Martin, Masara, Messano, Duke, Curstburger, Gugenheim, and many others, forty or more. They had gone out to teach, to live at the most effective angle for betweenness, so that their magic might multiply. Some had established their own experimental centers, and were making mistakes and learning how to make more mistakes and more voltage in the ensuing determination. Each of them had their own disciples who were not always taught the exact teachings Inman had advised. Each diverged a little, each to his peculiar personality.
This may have annoyed Inman five years ago; little divergences had no effect upon his mind now.
Irving smiled. His unabashed message was, "You old bastard, what is so important about your session with those shadows you projected but could not hold on to. We do not see you as such an important cog. And you are a warm person, that is about all. Oh, yes, I'll agree, a man who has read a lot and learned a lot... and I might even add, you have a soft heart in you... a bit mushy... did you no good at all."
Inman smiled too. What is wrong with the Truth? Inman, the end-result, is little more than, a shadow. But then man is also something else besides that which winds up at the finish. He is also the history of his action. He is a process... even if one end is grey and smells like a damp cellar.
Inman looked at Grubb and Perry, and thought, "It is good to be with you. No changing you two. No hopes unhatched here. No disciples unfinished. Just old friends who have no idea that I am. They see mostly a body. If I am warm in my attitude, they warm themselves at the glow of friendship. And if I am distant or cool to them, there is no anger, but a sort of detachment as if they were not picking up my thoughts at all."
Perry looked at Inman. "Disciples hell. Is that all? What became of your family? Doesn't it bother you to sit here in this haze, knowing that your family will never know or believe that you are anything but a capital nut? Ideas be damned. I can live without ideas, philosophies or earth-shaking revelations about the final Nature of Things... if I could be with my children and my grandchildren. What is there in any form of life where there is no longer any love?"
Irving looked at the floor. He was disappointed in Perry. Inman stepped inside Perry for a moment and felt the heart-rending loneliness that Perry had. But all of them knew that Perry's boys had grown up and away. Poe was dead, and left no children. And Russ, who looked so much like John, threw his father out of his house, alienating their grandchildren from John. The mother had lost her mind.
And John silently hears these things which he already knew, and nods his head. There was no hope. And there was no place to go to find the meaningful hope of youth again. And that was what it would take. None of them had the energy to become ambitious again, nor the passion to prime themselves for new folly. So this grey room would have to suffice for the time being.
Somebody projected the need for a drink for all of them. Inman knew his lines. The script called for him to have a heart attack and he was supposed to slump forward upon the arm of his chair, at the mention of drinking.
So he slumped forward. Perry and Grubb responded properly as the script directed them to. They simply stared.
Inman projected the word, "Death."
Everyone in the room looked at him and did not move. They stared. They echoed the word "death" in the same tone that a child would echo the word, "school". The acting was good. Some looked sincerely blank.
The three little children came over to Inman's figure, and seemed amused that his arm protruded from the arm of the chair as if it were pointing straight ahead.
Inman thought, "This is not in the script, but it looks rather macabre to have children in a play, playing with a dead man's fingers." So he projected to Perry and Grubb, "One of you fellows lead the children away."
No projection came in return. Something had happened to the telepathic rapport. Everyone stared at him. He got a slight glimpse of their thoughts, but they directed no message to him. Or if they did, he was not picking up any intentional projection. He knew what they were thinking as they stared.
"About the only thing Inman plays good is a dead man."
Then Inman knew that something was happening. He had lost the power to project because his entire chain of quantum energy was failing. This could only mean one thing. Genuine death. They would never know the difference, and so could not revive him. He would be dead for ages before they knew he was really dead.
The voltage had spun down. The body had lost energy before, but had always recuperated soon enough to feed the neural coils with quantum energy.
Now he only remembered the words to project, and was not sure if they would ever be received. "I am really dying. What a way to go, acting in a damned play... the part of a dead man."
The Riddle of Synchronicity
by Michael Baldrige
This article by TAT Journal staff writer, Michael Baldrige, is based on reflections from his reading of Jung, Synchronicity and Human Destiny by Ira Progoff (Julian Press, 1973).
Synchronicity represents an attempt at conceptualizing, or at least delineating, certain unexplainable events. In the wider sense of the term, which is how Jung abstrusely presents it, it is not easy to comprehend. Synchronistic phenomena are of such an ambiguous nature that the resulting inferences and interpretations can lead to an exhausting and befuddling interconnection of factors. This is compounded by the fact that Jung himself had an incomplete understanding, which he admitted readily. Also, synchronistic phenomena are very difficult to validate because of their subjective natures. It is the type of experience which may immediately stun or amaze us, but which is passed over rather quickly, because its form may be "merely" a spontaneous, intuitive glimpse. When, however, we make the necessary connection between the intellectual idea and our own memories, it can be seen to be a much more common experience than was previously suspected; but the depth and intensity of the intuitive feeling thereof seems to vary quite a bit among individuals with different degrees of sensitivity.
In Jung's and Progoff's attempts at defining this nebulous concept, there seems to be a tendency to avoid definitive statements, perhaps in the fear that one will latch on to one side of the issue and falsely presume that it is understood. Jung may have attempted a near impossible task. He tried to tie in Synchronicity with the world view of theoretical physics at the same time that he related it psychologically to the individual. His approach seemed to be to describe all the related data, much of which was formed intuitively (and cross-referenced historically) and to hang the different elements side by side on the wall as if in an art gallery, hoping that the reader might make the intuitive leap by a simultaneous cognition of all the elements. From the majority of the responses to his conception, it appears that he has, to a large extent, failed. In 1955 he said in a letter to Progoff, "I wonder why people so often labor under the impression that I could not possibly mean what I say."
A working definition which can be related psychologically gives one a bit of a toe-hold to begin correlating and comparing the categories of events that can be labeled synchronistic phenomena. Synchronicity can then be defined as a meaningful, and usually simultaneous, correspondence between external (objective happenings) and internal events (or mental states) which is so striking as to be beyond the probability of being merely chance or the result of an observable causal chain. Such phenomena as ESP, the I Ching, Astrology, precognitive dreams, as well as the hypothesis of intangible, guiding spirits, all fall within the realm of this concept. If we apply these examples of Synchronicity to our working definition, the external-internal correlations give a further opportunity to find common denominators. With ESP phenomena, the internal would be your particular thoughts, while the external would be another person's corresponding thoughts. Concerning the I Ching, the internal might be a state of mind, while the external would be a seemingly random selection from a book of wisdom that seems to correspond and often is found to be very relevant. In Astrology, the internal factors are personality facets and inclinations which correspond externally to the particular relation and influence of the universe at our time of birth. With a precognitive dream we have images and "feeling-tones" which correspond later with an actual event in our life. With the spirit hypothesis, the internal or subjective phenomena might be questions that we have concerning our destiny, while the external correspondence can be seeming objective happenings which answer those questions in symbolic or explicit ways. This is not an inclusive listing. We could speculate indefinitely about the real processes behind these events and probably bite our tail, but the point here is just to establish a general working definition. In this regard, an example can be useful.
During the course of my recent study of Synchronicity, it oddly seems that there has been a prevalence of synchronistic events in my life. This cannot be proven, and I would hesitate to try, because if I had to describe the parallels, intuitions, erroneous "intuitions" and uncanny correspondences that occurred within my fluctuating consciousness, I'm sure that someone (my mother perhaps) would feel inclined to have me committed. The most significant of these examples, however, involved what seemed to be a precognitive dream.
The primary correspondences between the dream (internal) and the events which later took place (external) were to a large extent a matter of mental states, but there were also parallels in the concrete elements of the dream, which involved a TAT symposium with a small crowd, a guitar, a walk in the snow, three men whom I spontaneously recognized from the dream, and an ominous feeling within. All of these were present in the dream and later in the actual event. The way in which the correlation between the dream and the reality occurred was purely a matter of spontaneous realization. When I saw the men in my dream in real life, the whole ominous mood of the dream descended upon me. When I found myself playing the guitar, in a certain mood, and certain comments were made to me, again there was a flash that I recognized as parallel with the dream. And lastly, when I found myself walking in the snow, in a particular state of mind, again I was momentarily amazed. In the dream I went for a walk because a poisonous gas was unleashed, and I thought if I could get plenty of oxygen I could dilute its strength. In real life I had a disagreement with a friend and I did not dwell upon it, but decided to take a walk and "air things out."
While I was taking this walk another coincidence occurred. I glanced at a bumper sticker which said, "Answer to Job," and which had a picture on it which I felt somehow corresponded to my mental state. It was an advertisement for a play and, at the time, it struck me as quite odd and somehow significant. Two weeks later I read the following statement in one of the later chapters of Ira Progoff's book: "Significantly, also, the theme of Answer to Job (written by Carl Jung) is a partial application of the Synchronicity principle." I was astounded.
We could easily become intellectually mired in the study of Synchronicity. If we follow the line of reasoning stated in Jung's essays on the subject, we feel as if we are juggling nine grapefruits. When we read Ira Progoff's clarifications, we are given the impression (even though it is not intended) that Jung's conception was solely the outgrowth of metaphysical history. Progoff spends a large amount of time discussing this aspect of the subject. When he does get into the psychological aspect, it is primarily with the use of Jungian terminology which seems to leave the subject still a bit too abstract.
This leaves us with a number of alternatives if we wish to truly understand the phenomena. Certainly, on the experiential level, where understanding must be formed, we can observe ourselves attentively and record these events when they happen. We can experiment with ourselves and speculate endlessly. We can also talk to reliable psychics and compare notes. I personally know of a number of people who experimented with LSD and had extremely unusual experiences which intimated that the entire "trip," including external events, was programmed in meaningful ways for their specific benefit. Looking back on their comments, I realized that they were talking about Synchronicity. In any event, it seems that direct experience of the phenomena is quite helpful, if not absolutely necessary, to approach either Jung's exposition, or Progoff's interpretations on the matter.
Ira Progoff related the "Synchronicity hypotheses" to other explanations of human destiny which begin to make the implications of this idea apparent. The basic impression which these types of phenomena leave behind is that they are somehow independent of cause and effect (or common sense).
Progoff traced the critique of causality. David Hume, in his Inquiry Concerning Human Understanding, stated that cause and effect were not something which we actually "see;" rather, they are merely inferred from disparate, simple observations. He also implied that the belief in causality was a "habit of thought," that was "agreed upon" because it was a necessary belief for individuals in society to order their lives.
Jung's idea of causality was that it was a "statistical" truth, i.e. true in most cases, and that it could not explain all events that occur within the psyche or nature. This is why he attempted to make his concept of Synchronicity a little appetizing to theoretical physics--because he felt that the present scientific knowledge of the world was lacking a comprehensive view. He did not intend to displace causality, but to complement it.
Even though Jung and Progoff continually repeat this latter qualification on the scope of Synchronicity, it seems that half of the ways in which Jung explains it point to the idea that it is a pervasive principle which must be true in all cases. For instance, he describes the principle as a kind of "acausal orderedness" and he refers back to the ancient Chinese term, "Tao," as well as to Leibniz's idea of a "pre-established harmony." After digesting a number of these related statements, I was drawn to the unremarkable conclusion that things are because they are. Things are. But that is not all they are. They are interdependent and unimpeachably related. One is further drawn to a somewhat abstract picture of a universe that marches on like a rolling landscape, or a giant ant-hill, where all the inhabitants march every which way and presume that they know where they are going, but are really only riding the waves of a pattern that goes far beyond them. This is "God's Plan" or the Tao. We can shake and wiggle all we want, but only up to a point does it make any difference. If I have gravitated towards appropriate conclusions, then we can see why Jung had such a difficult time logically explaining the basis of his theory to the scientific community.
This larger view of the universe is the macrocosm. The individual, according to Jung, contains within the realm of his unconscious, a microcosm--a replica or representation of the universe. In fact, he postulates that there is a part of man, the psychoid, which is so in touch with Nature or the macrocosm that it could almost be said to be a part of it. He also uses the term "collective unconscious," which implies that there is a mind dimension which is potentially knowable by everyone, and is the same for everyone, or which is a part of everyone. Leibniz made an interesting statement concerning this idea which takes it further: "Everybody responds to all that happens in the universe, so that he who saw all could read in each one what is happening everywhere, and even what has happened and what will happen."
In any event, we can see that in some way the macrocosm (the universe) manifests itself in or through the microcosm (the individual). A vision of Synchronicity or a synchronistic event would be simply a mental recognition of a particular unconscious representation (the microcosm) at the same time we are witnessing a corresponding part of the macrocosm consciously through the senses. This is not just a chance event, however, but the result of a pattern which exists "across" time. At any given moment in time all things must be in balance, and as this balance is constantly achieved a definite pattern is formed which puts all things in their places. This is in contrast to causality which is a pattern which moves through time.
[Illustration: "Things are. But that is not all they are. They are interdependent and unimpeachably related."]
When we watch a series of synchronistic events occur in our lives we may be inclined to speculate. One idea which often occurs is that our lives are somehow pre-determined or at least determined by forces that go well beyond our limited scope. In the case of a precognitive dream, we might better choose the word "pre-arranged." How else could we know ahead of time what was going to happen unless it has somehow already been arranged. Progoff went as far as to say, "It is inherent in every process of nature, including the psyche, that the seed of each process contains an implicit foreknowledge of the goal towards which it is unfolding." This is naturally a debatable statement, but in many small ways we can see a foreknowledge at work. Perhaps an example of this might be appropriate. Say, for instance, we go food shopping one evening. We are walking through the aisles and for some reason on this evening we follow an impulse and buy more food than usual. We also buy many items which we normally do not buy. Later that evening, some guests arrive, and as a further coincidence the unusual items we bought turn out to be their favorite foods. These kinds of coincidences occur all the time. They imply a kind of foreknowledge, or at least an unconscious attunement with a pattern, and are an example of Synchronicity.
Other kinds of synchronistic phenomena leave a greater impact, while stirring more philosophical musings. Perhaps we are merely watching a natural wave of specifically related events roll through our lives, just an example of the natural order throughout the universe. This could be the basis of the cliché, "When it rains, it pours." We might also be watching God's Plan or the intangible Tao as it acts through our predestined psychological nature. When we recognize the elements which are to be a part of our destiny, somewhere within our unconscious a kind of essential alarm clock goes off. In either event, we are aware that we are not deciding our course entirely by ourselves.
Another explanation of synchronicity which is not mentioned directly by either Jung or Progoff is the idea that synchronistic phenomena may in some cases be the result of a manipulation of sorts by beneficent or degrading invisible entities. This possibility makes sense because sometimes the phenomena which occur are of such an outlandishly coincidental character that explanations which exclude the possibility of some kind of intelligent force seem incapable of making sense. Progoff spoke of Jung's frustrations in his work which Synchronicity. Jung began to feel that there was some kind of "trickster" element in it. Progoff said, "It seemed as though one of the playful gods who tease and play practical jokes on humanity was tantalizing him. At other times it seemed to him that Synchronicity had a spirit and a will of its own and that, in a demonic way, it created hurdles out of thin air to trip him." Progoff related this idea to some of the possibly tangential directions that Jung's studies took him, as if this "trickster" were partially responsible.
Progoff worked with Jung for two years and in that time became quite intimate with his ideas. His interpretative attempts do make the matter somewhat simpler. He also put Synchronicity in a scientific perspective and cleared the way for its acceptance by saying many things which needed to be said, but which were not Jung's place to say. His only critique of Jung, which seems quite valid, is that in Jung's attempts to appease the scientific community he left some muddled waters that detracted from the impact of his insights. But Jung stuck his neck out and must be respected for this. He published his ideas on Synchronicity even though he considered it only to be a work in progress.
When a person makes a serious and determined effort to solve the Inscrutable Riddle of Life much confusion may arise if the approach is one-sided; proud intellectuals are transformed into frivolous school children and intuitive sages sound like lunatics. But in the effort to overcome our limitations we continue to believe that true understanding is possible and we seek a way to broaden the scope of our minds by combining intellect with intuition. Carl Jung was one such pioneer who attempted to construct a consistent world-view which took into account both the scientific, or logical, and the mystical, or intuitive, approach. In his conception of Synchronicity, this combination is put to its greatest test.
The TAT Forum is a reader's exchange and correspondence column. You are invited to write to this column and offer comments or pose questions concerning the articles or letters published in this magazine or let others know about your investigations, discoveries or resources that you may have come across in your own search.
I am enclosing a $2.00 check for a year's subscription to your journal and wish you all kind of success with your new venture.
I am interested in religion and its relation to the psychic phenomena and have reached the point in my life where I see a continuity to life from experiences and dreams which are the most enlightening teachers when they are comprehended.
My philosophy at present is that truth is what each one believes it to be, and when a group follows a leader then they all believe the same way. But all others are outsiders. Pretty simple, isn't it?
Harold B. Marsh
I want to thank you for sending me a sample of your TAT Journal. However, I am sorry to tell you that I was disappointed with the magazine upon an initial, cursory reading. The format looked muddled and amateurish, and the content seemed, at a glance, quite juvenile. I do not believe in paying for something of poor quality, and so did not, at that time, believe that I should buy a subscription. But I did feel, from a high regard for the aims of the TAT Society, that I ought to give the journal a more thorough examination before I disposed of it; therein might be a pearl awaiting discovery. So I sat down with the magazine, determined to read it through. I started with Joseph Kerrick's piece, "New Age, Old Age and In-Between," and there, tangled in the verbiage of the first paragraph, I stopped. And if I hadn't believed that Kerrick was sincere in his efforts and that he had something of worth to say--notions I derived from reading his book, Is There a Way Out?--I would have tossed the magazine aside for good. But my faith in the TAT Society and my favorable suspicions of Kerrick brought me back to the article again and again. However, it took several starts before I could hack my way completely through the rhetorical overgrowth, and a week passed before I emerged from the other side of that brier-patch. But, by persisting in the struggle, I gained a new understanding of the purpose of the TAT Journal and of the TAT Society as a whole. I write you now as an exercise of that new lesson, and to tell you of my encounter with "New Age, Old Age and In-Between."
I had no easy time reading Kerrick's essay; I grappled with him the whole way. And most of the insights I won from that reading came as a result of my own determination to complete a task begun, and from my heated, and quite imaginary debates with the author; only at the end of the essay did Kerrick himself bestow any gifts upon his wearied reader. The first attempt (and nearly the last) at reading "New Age" was the most difficult. Right from the start, my cosmology was attacked by the author's assertion of mysterious "powers and forces that rule the earth," and by his implication of their ominous intentions. What powers? What forces? What intentions? I eagerly scanned the page for some definition, for some factual morsel that I might either accept as plausible or refute with my own superior concepts. I found only a "refashioning" of "intellectual nihilism" and a "rearrangement" of "ultimate desirability or attainability."
I searched more carefully. I looked for some subtle, between-the-lines hint of the author's knowledge of earth's mysterious rulers. But the only ominous presence I could sense was in the author's own "brutal" and "half-barbaric" tone. I began to suspect that the man had something that he wanted to spring on me, and I became uncomfortable. I got the itchy feeling that he didn't really want to talk about cosmology at all; he seemed to have other mysterious intentions. But I didn't seek them out, here my patience broke and I could go no further with that first reading. Yet, as I have mentioned already, I returned to the article several times, though each subsequent reading was nearly as exasperating as the first. However, as I wrestled through each attempt, I slowly began to feel an exhilaration from the mental and emotional exercise. Kerrick even began to make sense to me, though cautiously, I still kept the barbarian at a machete's distance.
The more effort I had to exert to push through Kerrick's jungle, the more alert I became, both to Kerrick's ideas and to my own inner processes. The more arguments I muttered at the author, the more my stuffed concepts became modified, tried and tempered. Soon, I even began to see a familiar face peering from the print. I saw myself in what I was reading. I realized that my own mood, as I fumed at Kerrick's "heretic-hating" attitude, had become somewhat less than civilized itself. It also occurred to me that I had a few egoistic machinations of my own, from which my rebuttals took their pattern. Though these insights are valuable enough returns for any effort, I ultimately received a gem from the author as well. When I finally burst forth into the clarity of the last few paragraphs, I could plainly see what it was that Kerrick was talking about, and I accepted his thesis. I agreed with his conviction that appearances can be deceptive, that when the outward props of life--even if they are as spiritual as we can imagine--take precedence over the inner search for understanding and Being, then genuine spiritual work disappears and illusion reigns supreme. So after having attended to this long and aggravating lesson, I no longer had to settle for merely kicking the machine in frustration; I now understood that one inserts the proper coins to receive the desired product.
Having thus emerged from "New Age, Old Age and In-Between," I took another look at the rest of the TAT Journal. As I flipped through its pages I mused over what I had learned from my encounter with Kerrick. It seemed to me that lessons such as this might be the essential aim of the TAT Society. I remembered that the purpose of TAT was not to impart certain knowledge or teachings to anyone, but to provide the opportunities for experiences such as mine. As my thoughts began to mount, I became more excited about a journal such as this. And with each page I turned, the magazine became increasingly attractive. Although I knew that the TAT Journal would still appear childish and ugly next to an established periodical, I also realized that this sample was just a beginning, and that all beginnings are childish and ugly. While reading through "Perspective" for the first time, I learned that the editors had foreseen the little drama I had engaged in previously, and had already established the guidelines I had initially ignored, but now support--I ate my crow supper. At last, with the closing lines of that piece, I read the words spoken directly to me: "Dissatisfaction with our present conditions of knowledge and being need not damn us to futility and despair. It may propel us into a genuine activity, that could lead to real wisdom..." Thanks for the sample of the TAT Journal.
Michael G. Treanor
To the Forum:
I was glad to see Joe Kerrick's article (Nov. 1977) which referred to the "New Age" as a prop, or the background and scenery of a play. He stated this in relation to spiritual truth, which must necessarily be found beneath any cultural facade. In this light, the New Age (which is fading fast) can be seen for what I believe it is--mostly rhetoric and costumes, with little spiritual change taking place. It is unfortunate that all spiritual endeavors are being lumped within this context. Spirituality exists in all times, and is anything but the result of a New Age, for it stems from what we all must face, the Everpresent, chilling realities of life. Spirituality results when, for one reason or another, we can't hide from them any longer.
Using Habit Force
The initial reaction to mention of the word "habit" is usually negative. Actually, habit is a neutral phenomenon inherent in the nature of our world. The habit of everyday life blends imperceptibly into the habits of natural law and the movement of electrons and planets. Indeed, if we were not surrounded with predictable processes, the world could not exist as we know it and our universe could be in nothing other than uncreate chaos.
Man is a creature of habit in innumerable ways, from the manner in which he ties his shoes to the more subtle psychological habits of attitude and interpersonal reaction. Habit is paradoxical; it both aides us and hinders us. In many ways it saves us much energy and attention, and can be consciously used in an indefinite amount in this direction. Can you imagine learning anew each time to drive a car or to use a typewriter? On the other hand, becoming entrenched in habits and not being consciously aware and discriminating towards them can tend to put one to sleep or make one mechanical, a robot.
You can use the human tendency toward habit by consciously discriminating what habits you wish to establish in your daily life and applying energy to do so. I believe this can be a way to vastly improve efficiency in daily life, as well as being a means to spiritual becoming.
Whatever your occupation may be, you become more efficient at it when you continually refine and develop habits that apply. If you wish to become ingenious and efficient, then apply energy in numerous tasks during the day to find a better way of performing them. In time, this approach or attitude will become habitual and you will become ingenious and efficient. If you wish to become a discriminating thinker, then search out habitually the different sides and angles of the issues and questions you encounter. By constant attempt at this, in time there will be a change in your character and you will have become a discriminating thinker, to the degree of energy applied and strength of habit established.
In establishing a positive habit, initially the energy and effort required will be very great compared to what is required once the habit is established. That is, it takes a great deal of effort to change your behavior and to continually and consciously act in another manner; but once you have habitually begun to act in that manner, it takes much less energy to keep the habit going.
This is one of the secrets of ascetics and yogis. It might seem incredibly painful to you or me to wear a hair shirt and live in a cave, but once the ascetic has become used to or accustomed to his situation, it requires very little pain and energy to maintain himself there. Admittedly, it would require a great deal of pain and energy to accustom himself. The yogi who can meditate for four or five hours at a sitting could not do so when he first attempted it. By a great deal of effort he formulated a habit, or trained himself, so that he is able to perform the feat now with little effort. The energy and determination are required in forming the habit, not in maintaining it. Of course, there is always the possibility of continually applying energy to increase capacity and quality in whatever area the habit-process is applied.
Although most of our apparent and superficial life can be claimed to be composed of various habit structures and processes, there does seem to be a separate or observing part of the psyche that can view, discriminate and perhaps give direction to the superficial aspect of our life. I believe this observing part of the psyche can be trained to objectively view and discriminate what changes need to be made in one's life and to provide the stimulation to make those changes. If, as some accuse, man is almost totally a creature of habit, mechanical, a robot, then the quality of the robot is the nature of its habits. If we must be robots, at least we can be alert robots, and somehow aim our robot natures in a direction we desire.
Moundsville, W. Va.
A Band of Poets Desert From The Red Army, Forever
All day our horses ran away with us.
Suddenly the edge vanished.
Stars emerged in the heavens,
Halving themselves infinitely
To make new night flowers.
As we galloped near the river without color,
Our minds let go of the reins.
A few individual men
Were lost permanently.
We did not mourn the passing there.
By dawn an absolute candle
Gilded the tiny mushroom towns silver,
And smeared gold behind my eyes.
I could not distinguish my comrades
From the one anothers of my being.
Clearly the war was over now.
Though a cannon toiled in the distance
And church bells thudded in their rims,
All this behind us became forgotten country.
For what we discovered is never lost.
1977 Copyright for the author
Face to Face with the Paradox
The world is turning more and more to science for answers to its questions. Science has uncovered many secrets of nature and has brought us much in terms of technology and medicine. The astounding thing about it all, however, is that in spite of all of our progress and seeming scientific enlightenment we are still in the deepest dark about the answer to the most obvious and fundamental of all possible questions--what is the nature of our instant-to-instant experience? The actual, right-now-as-you-read-this-word experience. Is there even any remote understanding of this phenomenon? The answer is that there is no real answer at all in spite of the fact that we know very well and can explain with the utmost precision the exact mechanisms which occur as you scan these printed lines. We know what and where the eyes and brain are, and we can trace many of the precise electrical events occurring along the optical pathway from your retina to the visual areas of your brain. All of this information, however, serves only to introduce us to a very surprising paradox. So let us explain how it is you are able to see the words you are now reading. This is an accurate scientific explanation of how one of your primary senses, sight, is working. A similar type of explanation could be used in describing the working of any of the other main senses.
To begin with, this printed paper is located out here some distance from your face. Light is striking the page and being reflected back into your eyeballs in a pattern of differing intensities. Darkness corresponds to the places where light is mostly absorbed, the inked areas, and light where most of the light is reflected on the uninked surfaces. In short, a reflection of the distant page is being projected onto your eyes. The lens within your eye is focusing this light image on your retina, and the retina is translating the light-dark pattern into a corresponding pattern of electrical nerve impulses. Those impulses are being transmitted along wire-like nerve fibers from the retina ultimately to the very back of the cerebral portion of your brain. This area is called the occipital lobe and it fills the back of your skull. The nerve fibers cross and interact with each other and with nerve fibers from other parts of the brain in a complex way. Basically, however, a pattern of activated nerve fibers exists in your occipital lobe corresponding to the original pattern of light reflected from this page. This explains how you are now seeing what you are seeing--or does it?
Think again! This page which you see before you is, in fact, not at all before you. It is quite clear from the foregoing explanation that it--what you are seeing right now--is somewhere in the back of your head. Look around the room. That also is not OUT THERE. It is in your head. That scene is not anywhere distant from you, it is "in" you. Where the reality lies, of which this is a projection, we do not know.
If this is how the inside of your mind looks, where is your head? Look out the door and maybe you will see the inside of your skull somewhere off in the distance. Where are the windows out of which you are looking? If everything you are experiencing is not here in this pattern which makes up your right-now experience, then where is it? What exactly is outside of you and what is inside? Is someone looking at you as you read this? Where is what he is seeing? In short, where is consciousness located? Try to find it.
Going back now to the usual "I am in here looking out at you" point of view, we can consider the scientific explanation in a different sort of way. I mentioned earlier that all of this leads us to a paradox. We can't explain our perceptions in terms of the observed patterns occurring in the physical brain. No matter how we look at it we end up with a paradox. The world is still not explained by saying it is all in your head even if science unwittingly seems to prove it. It does seem, however, that you--the observer of this Phenomenon--are very difficult to locate.
What concluding facts can we settle on from these observations? For one thing, we can say with certainty that there is no "out there" which we "in here" are looking at. At the same time there is no "inside of my head" type of reality since if that were true everything else would have to be in here with me and there would be no outside of me to be inside of anymore! Furthermore, the body-centered self which we all assume without question to be the clearest representation of ourselves can really only be said to be another happening, another event of which there is an unlocalizable, unnamable awareness. Beyond this we can say nothing at all about the ultimate nature of this awareness--at least nothing based on the scientific and common sense observations we have just made.
Looking elsewhere we can ponder the thoughts of others. What did Jung mean by the collective unconscious? Does this hint at some kind of larger mind not contained in any individual head but manifesting in all? What about the words we receive from the few men who seem to have found the answer for themselves? We are told that we have an eternal timeless essence and that everything springs from a single source outside of which there is nothing. Do our observations in the here and now suggest any connection with such ideas? It seems to me to make a great deal of sense to look carefully at these ideas, especially in light of the real uncertainty which we discover when we drop our presumptions of knowing anything for certain and face the fact of the paradox.
The figure of Prince Muishkin in Dostoyevsky's The Idiot presents a portrait of a man caught in a dilemma. His predicament is meant to be universal in scope and timeless in its dimensions. It is the mark of a great literary work when a modern reader, upon reaching the end of this book, feels caught in the same no-exit bind which ensnares the 19th century Prince. And indeed, this is exactly the result which follows from a sensitive reading of this work. The question which the reader feels so strongly is the one which creeps hidden in every life, even the least examined: How is the man of pure heart and good intentions to live his life in the face of unreasoning injustice and the uncertain rewards for living the virtuous life? Is it possible to obtain fulfillment in life by being a good man?
Dostoyevsky presents to the reader a full range of alternatives for pursuing fulfillment in life: Rogogin, the dark figure of a wealthy St. Petersburg financier, is driven to murder and madness by his dissolute quest after Nastasia Philipovna. Hypolyte, consumed by tuberculosis, longs for intellectual recognition, believing that his last great confession, a rambling comment on the nature of life and death, will bring him the academic respect he craves from his fellows. Instead of respect, he earns derision and is made the fool when he badly bungles a public suicide attempt. Likewise, Nastasia herself, unable to quench her own hidden longings, torn between a Bohemian life and a respectable marriage; falls victim to Rogogin's knife. Aglaya, the beautiful and aristocratic ingénue, seeking after a noble-hearted and intelligent husband, in the end is jilted by the Prince and is left to marry a disreputable Polish confidence man.
One by one, each major character in the novel fails to achieve the fulfillment each believes is contained within the goal. And yet, the reader understands why they fail. Each character contains the seeds of self-destruction. Rogogin is consumed by overwhelming lust, Hypolyte by overbearing egotism, Nastasia by maddening indecision, and Aglaya by pride and family indulgence. Within a moralistic framework, each character sins in a way which causes each to be destroyed.
Only the Prince seems to be without sin. If any character is to find his way through the maze of life, is to be rewarded and fulfilled, it is the Prince. And in fact, through most of the novel, the Prince appears not to be the idiot he is sometimes called by his friends; he is the only character who is able to succeed on the strength of his pure heart, good intentions, and honest deeds: Two beautiful women fall in love with him, he inherits a fortune, he is able to make friends of his enemies, and his placement within a respected and powerful St. Petersburg family seems assured. Yet he, too, fails and is destroyed. We are given broad hints of the Prince's ultimate failure. Early in the novel, the Prince is stricken with a recurrence of his epilepsy just at the moment when Rogogin is about to murder him. Again, toward the end of the novel, the Prince stupidly shatters a prized oriental vase at the party held for him at the home of his future in-laws. To make matters worse, the party ends with a second recurrence of his epilepsy, embarrassing everyone concerned.
The Prince is not without his faults: however, none rise to the same level of self-destruction which ruin the other major characters. The question presents itself: Why then is the Prince destroyed? The reader is forced to the conclusion that there is no good reason for Muishkin's major fault and contrive to blame his destruction on the love triangle between himself, Aglaya, and Nastasia. However, at most, the Prince simply makes a bad judgement, choosing Nastasia over Aglaya. In the end he is reconciled to marry Nastasia even though he realizes he has hurt and disappointed Aglaya. This is hardly reason for destroying an otherwise wholly admirable character.
There is no good reason for Muishkin's return to the lunatic asylum in Switzerland. And this must be Dostoyevsky's answer to Muishkin's dilemma and to our own. One cannot depend on life to dispense its favors based on one's spiritual, emotional, or intellectual purity. The good man cannot expect any reward in life as a result of his virtue. This conclusion is the unfortunate answer to the hidden question of our daily lives. One may be materially secure, free from sin, and full of love for his fellow men and yet blight and ruin may strike at any moment.
In the end, the grave sins of each of the doomed characters in the novel are not adequate to explain their destruction. One must conclude that they, like Muishkin, are destroyed for no good reason. If one looks again at Rogogin, there is no good reason for his murdering Nastasia: he has her in the end, free from the Prince. There is no good reason for Nastasia not to marry either the Prince or Rogogin; both are wealthy and respected. And Hypolyte probably is the great intellect he pretends to be.
Dostoyevsky makes it clear to us that living without sin is not the means to salvation. How then does he suggest that we live our lives in the face of life's absurd conclusion? Unfortunately, The Idiot gives us no help. Muishkin's dilemma remains one hundred years after the novel was written, and part of its greatness and appeal lies in the fact that we are still trying to answer this question today.
Charles T. Williams
A Glimpse of Nothingness by Janwillem van de Wetering, Houghton-Mifflin, 1975.
Janwillem van de Wetering conveys his journey as a Zen student--struggling, falling, getting back up, and moving forward--in a way that is down-to-earth, somewhat original, and downright inspirational at certain points in his latest book, A Glimpse of Nothingness. The author is a vivid example of an ordinary, everyday, nose-against-the-grindstone student of the Dharma--Zen style--who, like the majority of aspirants on this type of path, is buffeted to and fro by conflicting emotions and weaknesses which are constant reminders of his limitations.
The qualities of honesty with oneself and a lack of pretentiousness seem to be ideals to which many veteran students of Zen aspire. Throughout his writings van de Wetering portrays a growing resistance to the tendency to deceive himself into believing he is something he is not. He keeps plunging forward, reporting all the while on his progress and setbacks along the way. This book is a journal composed largely of the inner-mental dialogue of a student at a Zen meditation retreat:
"The meditation had started. I repeated my koan, as quietly and as slowly as possible. The thoughts came, as always, and flitted about in their undisciplined and silly ways. But I sat well and the koan gradually became the centre of my concentration."
Anyone who has persevered through the grueling discipline of extended meditations on the nature of the mind, knows of the seemingly overwhelming obstacles waiting to greet and stifle one's efforts. Trying to look at the mind with the mind oftentimes leaves us feeling like the kitten spinning futilely in circles trying to catch his own elusive tail. Attempting to observe the thoughts and their labyrinthine gestalts for weeks, months, and years on end results in predictable periods of frustration and boredom, interspersed with occasional bursts of insight and clarity which are usually quick to dissolve back into the whirling vortex of complete mental identification. The author's description of falling asleep in the Zendo brought back personal memories of similar circumstances that befell me some years back while just beginning my initial tour of duty in the Buddhist "boot camp" of Karma Dzong (a Tibetan Buddhist center in Colorado):
"Pain (from sitting in one place for so long) was replaced by my old enemy: sleep. I fell asleep constantly and had to rush out during the breaks to rub my face with snow."
If we are to believe the writings of such individuals as Garma C.C. Chang in The Practice of Zen, then the heart of Zen lies in its emphasis on the intentional creation of tension. In van de Wetering's book the stresses of life in a Zen community are described in lucid detail:
"Tensions in the Zendo are normal. In Japan I had witnessed how some of the monks, especially the young ones, could not bear the stress. Egged on by the master and the senior monks, driven relentlessly to break their koans, they rebelled, without probably wanting to rebel. I had seen how a monk, on his way to sanzen had grabbed one of the altar's supporting poles and refused to go in."
Unfortunately, the reactionary hunger to escape the necessary confrontative trauma of such a discipline commands much of our attention also:
"The old teacher had been right when he spoke to me in my dream. Your personality will crumble away, until there is nothing left. Whatever had I let myself in for? I seriously thought of running away. I could have walked to the nearest store and telephoned for a taxi. I could probably have caught a plane that very night. But I shook the thought off and walked back to the (retreat) cabin."
The author's insight into the often heavy-handed techniques used by the Zen teacher to shock his students out of their lethargy are expressed in a convincing manner. The confrontation starts lightly at first, but soon intensifies as the student develops a greater capacity to hold the induced tension:
"A Zen master does not encourage. He may weaken, and encourage a beginner, stuck on his 1st koan and groping about in the dark and knocking his head against real or imagined obstacles. But the encouragement is for the very 1st beginning. The master prefers to discourage, to destroy the supports, to push the disciple to the point of no return where he has to make his leap; and there is never any guarantee that he may land safely."
That the teacher knows the student's mind more intimately and sees it more clearly than the latter does himself, comes as a bit of a shock to the student as the mirroring process of the whole relationship evolves. Through such episodes as the following teacher-to-student confrontation, we are able to witness the mechanics of this highly pressurized educational process of exposing the myriad forms of the ego:
"Are you frightened now?, I asked. Did I touch the sore spot in your faith? Do you want to stop the discussion? Are you losing your temper because I am kicking against the shelf which supports your importance? Do you think the shelf may break and that you will drop into the bottomless hole? Are you worried about losing something?"
Most serious Zen students will agree that the initially painful unmasking process, as hinted at in the above paragraph, must be gone through in order to allow for greater maturity and progress. The trick seems to be in learning how to open to this confrontation process. Sometimes the teacher may deflate our ego-vanity complex with shocking harshness--the blunt truth that we are not that which we think ourselves to be cannot escape us if we are committed to being sincere with ourselves. Once again the secret seems to be in developing the courage to see things as they really are. Van de Wetering implies that during this process the student often becomes mired in a self-justification syndrome until the realization hits that
". . .the teacher's actions are acts of kindness. He works from a point which we can't reach or grasp. He is free, and we are not. He knows what is going on."
We often think we know or have found something to discover that we have been complacently coasting along with a whole set of superficial realizations. In The Practice of Zen by Garma C.C. Chang, we find the ancient Zen master Han Shan warning us repeatedly that there is no greater deception or sin than to be satisfied with a small and shallow attainment. At one stage in his meditation intensive, the author appears to momentarily cut through his mental garbage long enough to reach a point of clarity ("a glimpse of nothingness"), only to be cast back into his mechanical state of mind once again:
"No self. I began to get used to the idea. The shape walking about in the melting snow of a faraway country (the author being a Dutchman doing a retreat in America) was nothing but a temporary, transparent, changing figure. An apparent identity, nothing more. A vehicle. . .a cloudy spook on his way from a non-real beginning to just as nonreal end. Or rather, I thought I could accept it. But I knew that this apparent identity would, at the drop of a soft hat, speak up for itself, lose its temper, be jealous or greedy, or filled with fear. It would probably quake if it cut its finger; a free spirit can be made into mincemeat and it will smile right through the treatment. I meant to get that far."
[Illustration: "That the teacher knows the student's mind more intimately and sees it more clearly than the latter does himself, comes as a bit of a shock to the student as the mirroring process of the whole relationship evolves."]
Gradually the ego-identification complex begins to loosen its grip (ever so slightly), only to be reinforced at every turn by the fear-reaction mechanism which mysteriously manages to deflect every challenge to the mental supremacy of the ego. . . a frustrating cycle which somehow must be broken.
One intriguing aspect of van de Wetering's life is that after a year's stay in a traditional Japanese monastery, he returned to a lay existence as a businessman. A Glimpse of Nothingness is the sequel to his first book, The Empty Mirror; the former is based on a short stay at an anonymous American Zen community founded by a "graduate" student of the author's original Zen teacher from Japan (who is now dead). The book revolves around the observations of one individual's struggle to know the root nature of the human mind, with reflections being grounded in experience throughout. There are setbacks, limitations, and rationalizations confronting the author continually curing his journey. We would be wise to take note of them as they apply to our own quest. . . for van de Wettering's efforts to first see, and then transcend these obstacles, certainly can be applied to our own individual disciplines. His strength lies in seeing them for what they are and trying to cultivate the courage to work through them.
Many contemporary philosophical writings are plagued by the "think-talk syndrome" of intellectual double talk. In Zen the name of the game seems to be learning how to bring about a change of being; and, if we are to believe the testimony of the great Zen masters, such change can come about by persistent and determined effort. Janwillem van de Wetering's rough sketchings of this process could prove to be an encouraging tool for the earnest student to utilize in his search for the real self.
Moundsville, W. Va.
The Conquest of Illusion, by J.J. van der Leeuw, Quest Books
Most of the Western philosophers, such as Kant and Hegel, could take a lesson from the philosophy of the East (Lao Tze, Gautama) or even from Plato, in the ability to speak a simple, yet profound, language. Unfortunately, our philosophy has relied upon a talent for expounding what might have been meant in a manner that, according to van der Leeuw, is a "deluge of words, barren of action, and consequently the man in the street has come to look upon philosophy as a pretentious speculation leading nowhere, an intellectual game, subtle and clever, sometimes not even that, but always without practical value for the life of everyday."
In the process of attempting to promote our progress of understanding, we may find the philosophy or psychology section of our modern libraries the most confusing and full of illusion rather than the most enlightening. So we turn to other sources which may offer a more direct approach, and still remain within a philosophical realm--a vital philosophy of a truly psychological or "subjective" nature. Van der Leeuw expresses a distaste for the use of the words subjective and objective but states that,
"...even though we may be happily oblivious of it, all facts are of a psychological nature, since we do not know a thing except in so far as it becomes awareness in our consciousness ... The moment a thing becomes knowledge it is subjective, though its validity may well be objective ... It is the confusion of the two ways in which the word subjective is used, the one pertaining to 'method,' when subjective means 'belonging to the consciousness,' and the other pertaining to 'validity,' when subjective means 'of personal value only,' which makes us dread the term subjective."
This division of knowledge or truth is misleading. These terms have become so commonplace in our everyday usage of language that we may eventually find it necessary to return to the simplest of definitions. To understand subjectivity and objectivity we must define that which is trying to comprehend--us, or our interior Self.
Van der Leeuw's philosophical method has its roots in psychology based on experience of consciousness rather than logical proof, and so brings us closer to understanding this interior Self. He makes appropriate use of the central reality of mystical experience or "cosmic consciousness" as a fact of the uttermost consequence in philosophy. R.M. Bucke, in his book Cosmic Consciousness, has gathered testimonies of all ages to prove the universal validity of an experience which some would discredit as "merely subjective." Van der Leeuw says that, "It is subjective in so far as we approach it through our own consciousness, it is more than subjective, since in cosmic consciousness we share a Reality of which we are but an infinitesimal part."
The preceding concepts comprise only a small portion of the vast array of material covered by van der Leeuw. His most unique conceptions are found in the chapters covering the world of illusion and Reality, and the realization of the Absolute Truth. He surmounts the limitations of the intellect by pointing out the possibility of another point of view: "There is no space in the world of the Real, though there is that which I interpret in dimensions of space and time. The space illusion of my world-image also colours my thinking and feeling without my realizing that it does so; I never doubt that I am 'here' and that someone else is 'there,' at a distance of ten yards from me. Yet this is only the appearance in my world image of that which in the Absolute is not spatially distant, and consequently, when I ask a philosophical question in which the illusion of an objective space is implied, I shall naturally find these questions impossible to answer since they are wrong in themselves."
We can only escape this vicious circle of wrong question, wrong answer by first recognizing that we are asking the questions from the standpoint of illusion and that the intellect is bound to this same illusion. When we surrender both and leave our connections with the world of relativity behind, only then can we enter the world of the Real and experience Reality, "which does not answer the wrong questions, but rather sweeps them aside and gives us a realization of living truth instead, in the light of which the very questions become absurd."
Benwood, W. Va.
The TAT Society is a group of individuals who meet informally and periodically for study, discussion and investigation. Guest lecturers often speak at these meetings, which are free and open to the public. Call the local number for information.
Akron-Canton - TAT Society meets at Unity Church, 1075 W. Market Street, Akron. Call 434-2498 in Akron, 477-0272 in Canton.
Cincinnati - TAT Society meets at Unity Church, McMillan Street, Cincinnati. Call 241-3920.
Cleveland - TAT Society meets at Unitarian Church, Hilliard Rd., Rocky River. Call 231-3824.
Columbus - TAT Society meets at Ohio State Federal Savings & Loan, 5633 N. High St., Worthington. Call 291-4221.
Pittsburgh - TAT Society meets at University and City Ministry, 4401 5th Ave., Oakland. Call 687-1983.
TAT Farm - Quarterly TAT Society Meeting (TAT members only) held at the TAT Farm, April 15, 16, 1978.
Attendance at TAT events this Fall steadily increased from week to week beginning in Akron on November 12 and 13 where a heavy snow kept all but the most determined in their homes. TAT returned to Pittsburgh on November 19 and 20 and we presented our first program to Cincinnati on December 3 and 4 where, judging from the enthusiasm of the crowd and the many compliments, our efforts were genuinely appreciated. All three weekends stressed a workshop format which is proving to be a highly stimulating method.
Frank Mascara, a real expert at drawing people out and helping them to meet each other, conducted psychological workshops aimed at exploring some of the belief-structures which order our lives. The sessions began with group interaction concerned with the idea of one's self-image and then went into a more philosophical exchange on life after death.
Reginald Taylor, one of only a few American experts in cosmobiology, spoke on astrology in both Akron and Pittsburgh, demonstrating a true breadth of knowledge in his field. His presentation, amply punctuated with humor, is a welcome alternative to the superficialities promulgated at newsstands. Morgan Williams, a former minister with a deep philosophical perspective, handled an equally informative workshop in Cincinnati where he laid out a program of self-instruction for those wanting to learn. The serious psychological grounding and intuitive insight of both these men could cause many a skeptic to take a fresh look at the value of astrology. Helpful seminars on nutrition were led by Nazien Kashian in Akron, by Dr. William Tellin and Barbara Dyson in Pittsburgh and by Drs. Robert Rothan and Fred Bissel in Cincinnati. Prof. Wilbur Franklin, theoretical physicist from Kent State University, spoke to the Cincinnati group about his innovative research into psychic phenomena and introduced psychic, Elaine Fortson, who has participated in many experiments. Electrical engineer William King spoke on Kirlean photography and set up his equipment in all three cities to spend the weekends comparing auras of those present.
David Gold used a direct psychological method in his workshops to stir people mentally to think more deeply about themselves. A special, unscheduled attraction in Pittsburgh was a brief question and answer session with TAT founder, Richard Rose, who draws on an entire lifetime of research and experience in various esoteric fields.
About forty-five people sat around three, well-stocked wood stoves at the Thanksgiving TAT meeting at the West Virginia farm. These TAT meetings are an ideal opportunity for TAT members of the different cities to exchange ideas with the larger body of TAT co-workers. The meetings are informal and mostly social, except for those who would like to become more deeply involved in the planning or business aspects of the organization. There is always room for improvement and a need for help.
The first day of meetings was highlighted by an amusing sing-along led by the guitar and harmonica of Eric Hadidian from Columbus. His "Frog Prince Chorus" was led by John Rezabeck from Cleveland (bass) and Mike Treanor from Muncie (baritone). Naturally, it gravitated into obscure melodic philosophy, culminating in a seven-part harmony of, "Row, row, row your boat/ Life is but a dream."
On Saturday, November 26, the TAT business meeting was held to discuss the direction of symposia and the TAT Journal. These meetings are generally monitored by Richard Rose. Reginald Taylor, Cleveland astrologer, attended and made many valuable comments. Bill King, our Kirlean expert, initiated a discussion of all-day workshops which would go more deeply into one, particular field. We are still much in need of greater involvement by the general body of TAT members.
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