Archive 1
 Nisargadatta - 11/1/01 :  This month's Missal takes a look at Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, an Indian guru of this century.  His is an unusual case in that he had no spiritual training until he was in his thirties, when he was introduced to his future guru through a friend. This was the turning point in his life, as he progressed rapidly from Maruti, shop-keeper and cigarette seller, to the cigarette-smoking jnani [Self-realized individual], teacher and saint from Bombay, Nisargadatta Maharaj.
   He ascribes this rapid transformation to his complete faith and trust in his guru - "through faith in my teacher and obedience to his words, I realized my true being...". He spent the last decades of his life making himself available to anyone who wished to find the Truth, passing on in 1981.
   His teaching style pulled no punches. He continually turned the questioner back on himself, prodding him to go within and see for himself what IS.  He advised focusing on the feeling 'I am', which brings one back to the start of consciousness, and from there to go beyond all thought.
   In the modern spiritual classic, I AM THAT (Acorn Press), Nisargadatta is seen in the classic student/teacher format, patiently and forcefully leading the student to question his deepest beliefs, to go beyond the mind directly to the Self.

Questioner: I am not well. I feel rather weak. What am I to do?
Maharaj: Who is unwell, you or the body?
Q: My body, of course.
M: Yesterday you felt well. What felt well?
Q: The body.
M: You were glad when the body was well and you are sad when the body is unwell. Who is glad one day and sad the next?
Q: The mind.
M: And who knows the variable mind?
Q: The mind.
M: The mind is the knower. Who knows the knower?
Q: Does not the knower know itself?
M: The mind is discontinuous. Again and again it blanks out, like in sleep or swoon, or distraction. There must be something continuous to register discontinuity.
Q: The mind remembers. This stands for discontinuity.
M: Memory is always partial, unreliable and evanescent. It does not explain the strong sense of identity pervading consciousness, the sense of 'I am'. Find out what is at the root of it.
Q: However deeply I look, I find only the mind. Your words 'beyond the mind' give me no clue.
M: While looking with the mind, you cannot go beyond it. To go beyond, you must look away from the mind and its contents.
Q: In what direction am I to look?
M: All directions are within the mind! I am not asking you to look in any particular direction. Just look away from all that happens in your mind and bring it to the feeling 'I am'. The 'I am' is not a direction. It is the negation of all direction. Ultimately even the 'I am' will have to go, for you need not keep on asserting what is obvious. Bringing the mind to the feeling 'I am' merely helps in turning the mind away from everything else.
The real does not die, the unreal never lived.

Once you know that death happens to the body and not to you, you just watch your body falling off like a discarded garment. The real you is timeless and beyond birth and death. The body will survive as long as it is needed. It is not important that it should live long.

Excerpts from Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj's I AM THAT
compiled and edited by Miguel-Angel Carrasco
(a great site with quotes grouped in relevant categories)

Questioner: Kindly tell us how you realized.
Maharaj: I met my guruu when I was 34 and realized by 37.
Q: What happened? What was the change?
M: Pleasure and pain lost their sway over me. I was free from desire and fear. I found myself full, needing nothing. I saw that in the ocean of pure awareness, on the surface of the universal consciousness, the numberless waves of the phenomenal worlds arise and subside beginninglessly and endlessly. As consciousness, they are all me, as events they are all mine. There is a mysterious power that looks after them. That power is awareness, Self, Life, God, whatever name you give it. It is the foundation, the ultimate support of all that is, just like gold is the basis for all gold jewelry. And it is so intimately ours!

"All moulding oneself to a pattern is a grievous waste of time." - Nisargadatta


Pride and Fear,  the Curse of Alienation

     When one begins the process of looking at oneself, many hitherto unknown facets of personality begin to appear. At first we may wish to think the meditative process itself has created these behavior patterns, but soon enough we come to see that our previous state of sleep was greater than we wished to admit.  If we keep at our practice long enough, we will begin to see that certain states of mind are behind the newly discovered patterns, and may be shocked to discover our true motives in day-to-day-life. When these facts come to light, the first reaction may be to sort the behaviors into good and bad categories, and then set ourselves to the grim task of removing the negative while accenting the good.  In other words, the ego will start a campaign of behavior-modification meant to bring us closer to 'perfection'.  Actually this is nothing new, having been going on since birth, but the new found level of awareness gives the ego a new sense of cleverness.  It's going to outwit itself this time, for sure.
     When we begin to see the underlying motivation for a negative pattern of behavior is, say, pride, we can hardly resist wanting to counter it by creating a projection of humility or altruism.  If we are honest, we may see through this, but be left wondering if there is another solution. Renewed effort in the form of continued self-observation may take us to the next step. The pride itself could be just an effect, a compensation for an underlying state of fear. As we continue with our observing, we may come to wonder if there is ever an end to all this, if the root cause of our aberrant behavior can be found.  If we persevere, we eventually come to the root cause of the fear, a feeling of alienation, the battle of the self with the not-self, the mistaken belief that we are a separate thing.  This thing, or body/mind, lives in constant opposition with what it sees as other separate things. The universal has become lost in the particular and forgotten itself. This unnatural situation brings about the sense of anxiety and fear underlying most of our lives.
     What now? Here we find ourselves head to head with our very sense of survival, where no ego effort can help. By looking within long enough, we may come to the door of awareness, and with grace and luck, find ourselves beyond the mind.  From this new awareness, we come to see the former belief in separateness to be, as John Wren-Lewis puts it, 'some kind of inflation or hyperactivity of the psychological survival-system'.  We will also come to see the futility in putting new and improved patterns of behavior in compensation for any negative ones.  The old Zen warning against putting a new head on top of the one we already have comes to mind.
     All negative patterns of behavior can be traced back to the 'I am the body' idea, the feeling of alienation.  Our natural state has no sense of separateness, for it contains all.  Trying to fix an ego problem with an ego effort is doomed to failure, for as Wren-Lewis again states, 'the underlying universal consciousness, with its every-present-moment happiness, peace and wonder, gets shut out ''.  True peace can only come from our true self, or universal awareness. The body/mind will then continue to function, but in a sane manner, without the inflated ego-sense as master.
   The effort of self-observation is the revealing of the false. Our true nature will remain, and as such, needs no modification.  All we can do is to follow the old adage for crossing a busy road: look and listen. If we can see something, anything, it's not us. In this manner we can come to see we do not exist, yet Are, and Life can become a wonderful thing.

Bob Fergeson
- Quotes of the Month -

" When the mind is kept away from its preoccupations, it becomes quiet. If you do not disturb this quiet and stay in it, you find that it is permeated with a light and a love you have never known; and yet you recognize it at once as your own nature. Once you have passed through this experience, you will never be the same man again.
Sex is an acquired habit. Go beyond. As long as your focus is on the body, you will remain in the clutches of food and sex, fear and death. Find yourself and be free."- Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj
" Some things'll scare you so bad, you'll hurt yourself." - Boots Cooper, age 8
" I have always noticed that deeply and truly religious persons are fond of a joke, and I am suspicious of those who aren't.'' - Alfred North Whitehead
" The world is divided into people who think they are right.'' - Anonymous
" Do you know what listening is? I'm sure you don't know. People never listen. You only see through your own screen of concepts." - Dr. Vijai Shankar
" People do not live in the present always, at one with it. They live at all kinds of and manners of distance from it, as difficult to measure as the course of planets. Fears and traumas make their journeys slanted, peripheral, uneven, evasive.'' - Anais Nin
" The statistics on sanity are that one out of every four Americans is suffering from
some form of mental illness. Think of your three best friends.
If they're okay, then it's you." -- Rita Mae Brown

* * * * *

 Colin Wilson - 02/03 : This month's Missal takes a look at Colin Wilson, a prolific writer and contemporary thinker. Wilson was born in England in 1931, and had his first and biggest success with the publication of The Outsider in 1956 when he was 24.  After this initial success he was able to settle down to a life of research and writing that continues to the present day, having published over eighty books. He has remarked that he has simply written the same book eighty times, since the general theme remains the same: that of man's capacity to have "key experiences", and how to have this experience more often.

     He " began to believe that peak experiences were brought about when reality is grasped by the mind rather than by the automatic responses which get us through everyday life."* This roughly corresponds to Gurdjieff's idea of the robot, that the robot was living our lives, turning them into nothing but habit, leading to frustration and boredom, as we could no longer experience life except through this robot 'self'.

" My first expression of my sense of revolt at the universal self-delusion was an essay on 'Superiority', written when I was twelve. I still have this essay. It argues that all men are completely enmeshed in self-delusion, and that the universal motive that underlies all human conduct is the need of the individual to feel himself 'superior', to deny the obvious fact that he is a mere insect among billions of other insects. " -  From Voyage to a Beginning: An Autobiography

After he had received some measure of entree into the scientific community, he began corresponding with Abraham Maslow,  whose ideas were similar. Wilson saw that healthy, motivated people reported having peak experiences more often, that they had the capacity to see things with a sense of wonder.

"All of his research and literary work has had one primary goal: to test the limits and possibilities of human consciousness. As Wilson himself has said, everything he has done can be reduced to one simple mystery: when a child being reared in Christendom wakes up on Christmas morning, why does the world seem so much more vibrant and exciting, more "real," to the child than it usually does during the remaining 364 days of the year? And, even more to the point, why isn't this the way we feel all the time? "* quotes by John Morgan

    His idea that man can live in this state of peak experience more and more, possibly fulltime, permeates his books and novels, along with his ideas of why we are not in this peak state more often. His idea of the enemy to the evolved state of consciousness is cynicism, the giving in to hopelessness and despair. He offers no easy way out, and contends that each must find his own path to freedom, through exertion of the will. The individual must come to see, and escape from, the common hypnotic delusion of society, and find his own way to a clearer understanding of his place in life, and of his possibilities for personal evolution.
    In many of his books, such as The Mind Parasites, and The Space Vampires, he casts this life-thwarting force in a sinister form, which lies within the mind of man. These forces are not seen as evil, but rather as entities which siphon off man's highest energies, the very energies that could transform him into a being capable of higher levels of intuition, understanding, and being.

It is not their intention to destroy, ... Their intention is to feed for as long as possible on the tremendous energies generated by the evolutionary struggle. Their purpose, therefore, is to prevent man from discovering the worlds inside himself, to keep his attention directed outwards. What would man be like if he could destroy these vampires, or drive them away? The first result would certainly be a tremendous sense of mental relief, a vanishing oppression, a surge of energy and optimism. Then man's energies would turn inward. He would discover that he has many 'selves', and that his higher 'selves' are what his ancestors would have called gods.
- Colin Wilson, The Mind Parasites

 Among his many works is the classic reference on the world of mysticism, The Occult, plus biographies of such mystics as Ouspensky, Crowley, and Hesse. He continues to write to this day. While he may not have found "enlightenment", his struggles within himself and with society have born fruit, especially through his tireless efforts to communicate his understanding to others like himself.

 Colin Wilson World: An appreciation of the author Colin Wilson - philosopher, critic and novelist. "An enormously prolific writer, having written to date over 80 major works on a wide variety of subjects: philosophy, religion, occult and supernatural phenomena, music, sex, crime and critical theory. His biographies include works regarding Bernard Shaw, Herman Hesse,  Rudolph Steiner, Aleister Crowley, and P. D. Ouspensky.   Major philosophical statements to be found in the Outsider Series consisting of: The Outsider, Religion & the Rebel, The Stature of Man, The Strength to Dream, Origins of the Sexual Impulse, Beyond the Outsider and Essay On the New Existentialism. "

The High and the Low with Colin Wilson : an interview from Thinking Allowed, Conversations on the Leading Edge of Knowledge and Discovery, with Dr. Jeffrey Mishlove.  Contains a great self-description of Wilson's early suicide attempt and the revelation that halted it, and his philosophy in general.

Colin Wilson:  a prolific English writer who first came to prominence as a philosopher and novelist. Wilson has since written widely on true crime, mysticism and other topics. He prefers calling his philosophy new existentialism or phenomenological existentialism.

Tricks and  Traps   

Trick: the ability to resist. When faced with the opportunity(temptation) to act in a manner against our own best interest, we can feel helpless in the crucial moment before the decision to resist or act. Asking ourselves "Why?" can give us the time we need to regain our wits while the force of the temptation passes.
 See Art Ticknor's The Will to Resist in the Missal Library.
Trap:refusing to leave the nest, the fear of flying. To successfully engage in any true adventure, such as the quest for self-definition, we must be willing to take risks, to change. If we are not willing to trust our intuition through action, we may find ourselves rationalizing many traps as safe havens, when really we have just fooled ourselves as to our real intentions.

" I can resist everything except temptation."--- Oscar Wilde

This month's

Working for Inspiration

     To begin and end a life of spiritual seeking, there is much to be done. While at the end of our search we may realize that there was nothing being done and all is as it should be, while we are struggling in the morass of ego and illusion, we would do well to have a strategy. This plan should be based on the experience of those who have gone before us, as well as the hints from our own intuition, tempered by clear reasoning.
     As Colin Wilson points out, there are things we can do to encourage our personal evolution, and things which hinder it. While the goal may be to become All, there are hidden assets in the many we can call into manifestation to improve our chances for becoming that All. There are also forces inside us that wish to maintain the status quo of ego and illusion, and will defend their daily portion of our valuable energy.
     Let's take a look at how we can improve our odds at taking a step within, into the world of our mind and beyond. The journey within can be broken down into three steps, which are simultaneous and interdependent: intention, or aim; clearing the field; and the saving and transmutation of energy.

- Intention: We must have the proper desire: an unrelenting, conscious intention to know the truth. We cannot create or fake this, but can only discover it within us, and then help it to grow. Our main intentions may be ones we refuse to accept. This must be seen before any spiritual aspirations can be successful. A few months of regular group work in an ashram setting will show one which intentions are dominant. If the desire for self-definition is found, this aim will guide us in all we do, reminding us of what we truly want, and how to get it. An honest commitment to oneself must then be made, clearly and openly. Then we forget it, concentrating on the endeavors of the moment. The inner self will then be called to help, without undo interference from the ego.

- Clearing the Field : We can have only one main aim. Whatever is draining our energy without result must be cleared away. We need to know ourselves, to be watchful and wary. Many unconscious motivations, ambitions, fears and desires may be sidetracking our energy and time. These must be seen and admitted, so as to bring them into our awareness. The pitfalls of projection, transference, circumstance, heredity, and environment must be fully recognized and brought up into full consciousness, also. The machine must be cleaned, operating smoothly under our conscious control. As Wilson pointed out, when the robot is in charge, life loses its wonder and magic, and the inner resources are lost.  We develop the intuition through the higher energy we save (as seen below), thus enabling us to discern what voices or habits are useful in our search, and which are against our best interests.
- The saving and transmuting of energy : In any project or large endeavor, much time and energy is needed. Given that our resources as individuals are limited, perhaps fixed, we must use this energy quantum to the best advantage. We can't have too many irons in the fire, too many ambitions or habits that require constant funding. The precious energy we have must be saved and redirected to the prime intention, of knowing our truth. The cleaning of the machine and our life's patterns, will give us this funding. Now that some of our energy is being freed from worldly pursuits, we can learn to direct it upward, through our aim.  We hold our intention clearly in our mind, which is to learn to observe our self, and allow the attention to turn inward, and listen. This newly released energy will also help to develop the intuition, as we are forced to rely on it more and more, thus drawing the saved energy to its development. Then, we act on what insight we receive, thus becoming a vector. If we do not act on, and therefore acknowledge, our inspiration, it may not return. It is not there for mere intellectual pleasure, or to pump up some vain ego. The intuition must be transferred into action, even if that action is only to incorporate it into our thinking, to bring it into full consciousness. If we use it for profit or selfish motives, it may also vanish. It wishes to act through us, rather than for us. Allow it to manifest, and it will grow.

This may sound like a lot of work, and it is. To find the truth about oneself and the universe is not a small thing, though it's as close as the hair on your head. If you find you cannot live without knowing who is living, then get to work.

Bob Fergeson
- Quotes of the Month -

" All values are ultimately mystical."
" Everyday consciousness is a liar."
" I'd make tremendous efforts to push myself up to a level of optimism. I'd do it in the evenings by reading poetry, thinking, writing in my journals, then I'd go back to the school the next day and blaaahhh, right down to the bottom again. This was the feeling of The Mind Parasites -- there's something that waits until you've got lots of energy and just sucks you dry like a vampire. "
" I realized suddenly that you can achieve states of control, provided that you put yourself in a crisis situation. And that's why throughout The Outsider I keep saying the outsider's salvation lies in extremes." - Colin Wilson
" The individual who wishes to embark on a truly conscious life must do so alone, and not fall victim to the endless parades of "knowers." The individual who has a sense of detachment from the norms of his or her society must not fall prey to cynicism or hero-worship, but instead use this sense of alienation as the starting point for values and myths of one's own invention, the true "outsider" of which Wilson speaks." - John Morgan
" Man is incredibly fatheaded. He believes he's in control, but the truth is he's just a robot in a dream -- a puppet whose strings are pulled by intelligences he can't see."-  Richard Rose
" Heaven on Earth is a choice you must make, not a place we must find." --- Dr. Wayne Dyer
" Security is an illusion. Life is either a daring adventure or it is nothing at all." --- Helen Keller
" Stop talking and thinking, and there is nothing you will not be able to know. " - Seng Ts'an

Comic Philosophy

Sometimes I wonder if men and women really suit each other.  Perhaps they should live next door and just visit now and then. --- Katharine Hepburn
I am not a vegetarian because I love animals. I am a vegetarian because I hate plants.
 --- A. Whitney Brown

* * * * *

 Tibetan Book of the Dead: July 03 - The Tibetan Book of the Dead, or Bardo Thodol, is the subject of this month's Missal. This ancient text, The Great Liberation through Hearing in the Bardo, was composed by Padmasambhava in the eight century A.D., an Indian guru who was one of the first to bring the teaching of the Buddha to the land of Tibet. Padmasambhava buried the text, along with others, to safeguard them and insure their eventual recovery at the appropriate time. They were later recovered by Karma Ling-pa, and used continually since then as a means of reminding the deceased of their spiritual training, and to guide them through the realms of the bardo of afterlife to ensure liberation, rather than rebirth.
     The main tenets of the Bardo Thodol are that once we are deceased, all the thoughts and actions of our previous life become objective to us as projections of our own mind. If we are not aware of the true nature of these karmic projections, and take them for being a true 'reality', we will be driven through the bardo's dimensions until we eventually come down to rebirth through entrance into the womb. By reading the text of the Book of the Dead to the recently deceased, the departed can be reminded of the true nature of the visions of the after-death bardos, and instead merge into the Light, or luminosity of Mind, and thus achieve Liberation.
   The term bardo means gap, or in-between, thus the bardo is a realm between our life in this body and being born into the next. It can also mean any state of mind we are caught in, in this life as well. Our dreams can be thought of as a bardo realm, as can any complete environment of desire and fear, such as our work-place, or family life.
   The Bardo Thodol is read beside the body of the deceased to help guide them through the realms of their own mind-projections as they wander through the now objectified thought-forms they created while living, in hopes of reminding them that all they see and experience is their own mind, and not an objective reality. The texts say that the after-death journey is one of ever-increasing chaos, and that the best hope for Liberation comes in the first stages, when the Luminosity of the Absolute is seen most readily. As one wanders through the visions of the thought-forms created by their actions here in this life, desire for and fear of these visions can lead the wanderer ever farther a field, until they are driven to seek refuge in a womb, and rebirth. The Bardo Thodol gives explicit instruction on avoiding being caught in any of the bardo's realms, of heavens or hells, and of how to avoid entering the womb and rebirth.
   To profit from a text such as the Tibetan Book of the Dead, one must take it to heart and put its teachings into action, now, in this life.  The basic teaching of the Bardo Thodol is that what we call 'reality', and even our sense of 'I', is nothing more than the creation of our mind, with which we become completely identified. This created knot of identification, or ego, which we call 'us' or 'me', is convinced that it is a body, a thing, in a real world, surrounded by other things. The nature of our finite mind and its ability to be mesmerized by its own creations is the trap we fall into, in this life, and the bardo plane. While dreaming, we do not doubt the reality of the dream. The same applies to the waking moment, and whatever place we find ourselves later, after death.  Transfixed by the images and moods we create and see before us, we forget our true Being as Awareness, undifferentiated Light, without subject or object.
"The realization of Reality, according to the Bardo Thodol, is wholly dependent upon expurgating from the mind all error, all false belief, and arriving at a state in which Maya no longer controls. Once the mind becomes freed from all karmic obscuration, from the supreme heresy that phenomenal appearances - in heavens, hells, or worlds - are real, then there dawns Right Knowledge; all forms merge into that which is non-form, all phenomena into that which is beyond phenomena, all Ignorance is dissipated by the Light of Truth, personality ceases, individualized being and sorrow are at an end, mind and matter are known to be identical, the mundane consciousness becomes the supramundane, and, one with the Dharma Kaya, the pilgrim reaches the Goal. "
 - W.Y. Evans-Wentz
 Whatever thoughts and actions, moods and states of mind we create and live in, in this world, that is what we will find in the next, be it the after-death bardo, our dreams in sleep each night, or the imaginings brought on by desire and fear in the waking world of tomorrow. Tomorrow is the creation of what we do and believe in today. We cannot hope for someone or something else to judge us, and send us to our just reward, but must come to see our own true nature in this life, now.
     The Tibetan Book of the Dead can be taken as a highly intuitive guide to our own psychological make-up, and a hint at what lies ahead if we do not turn within and begin to question our own mind.
"We are what we think.  All that we are arises from our thoughts. With our thoughts we make the world." - Buddha
The edition of The Tibetan Book of the Dead I would recommend is the one by W. Y. Evans Wentz, Lama Kazi Dawa-Samdup, translator, published by Oxford Press. The Psychological Commentary by C. G. Jung, and the many footnotes and comments by Evans-Wentz are invaluable. An edition by Francesca Freemantle and Chogyam Trungpa is a simple introduction to the work with a more modernized rendering of the text to English.
- Related  Sites -

The Reluctant Messenger; The Tibetan Book of the Dead, "teaches that awareness once freed from the body, creates its own reality like that of a dream. This dream projection unfolds in predictable ways in ways both frightening and beautiful. It guides a person to use the moment of death to recognize the nature of mind and attain liberation." Introduction to the text, and links.

Death and the Intermediate State: Text taken from the W.Y. Evans-Wentz edition of the Tibetan Book of the Dead

After-Life Existence - An Occult Analysis: The Bardo State.  The Tibetan After-Life: The "Bardo" or Intermediate State,  by M. Alan Kazlev.   Good commentary, and a lucid description of the meaning of 'bardo' in general. " a description of the bardo realms that one travels through after death. The basic method is non-attachment: to try to rise above both attraction to worldly pleasures and repulsion from worldly ills." Good review of the book and its content.

The Tibetan Book of the Dead: Literature and Artwork on Prayer, Ritual and Meditation from the Religious Traditions of Tibet, India, and Nepal: Texts and artwork of Tibetan culture.

Tricks and  Traps
Trap: complete hypnotic identification with the current character in our life-drama.  For every situation we encounter in life, we create a fitting character, and become identified with 'it', calling it "I".  We do not see the change that occurs in our 'self' when the situation changes, as we switch our sense of "I" into the new character, or ego. The mind blurs or hides this change-over, creating a seemingly seamless flow through the many egos and their parts in our personal drama.
Trick: creation of an observing "I". To break the spell of the mind and its reaction-creations, an impartial point of reference is needed, an unattached observer. This "I" does not take sides, is not a judging or naming function, but simply an aware link between the many other "I's" which lead us around by our nose everyday, and night. The trick within this trick, is that we are already this pure "I", but have lost touch with our Selves through identification. Through the 'creation' of an observing "I", we get a glimpse of something greater, of possibility, a taste of our natural freedom.


What Have We Lost?
" When Freud coined the phrase that the ego was 'the true seat of anxiety', he was giving voice to a very true and profound intuition. " - C. G. Jung, Psychological Commentary, Tibetan Book of the Dead

     We come into this life complete unto Ourselves. Helpless in body and mind, and a bit forgetful perhaps, but still possessing faith in our Self-sufficiency. As we begin to look around us at the fascinating play of form and feeling, we slowly begin to lose our innocent Self-absorption, and begin to be seduced into the present dimension. We can't help it, being terribly naive, and still somewhat innocent (though carrying an unconscious package deep inside, the basis for our arrival here in the bardo of life). This regretfully changes, as we are soon permeated with an unseen fog-like state of mind we inherit from our newly chosen home environment. Constantly battered by moods and emotions we do not understand, and cannot question, we find ourselves facing a daily onslaught of conflict and stress, followed by relief and pleasure, all designed to hook our attention in the outer world. The unconscious tendencies we have waiting patiently inside, soon enough find their counterparts in the willing environment. Our mind is eventually set in concrete by the pattern of action-reaction with the world as we have encountered it, leaving little freedom of movement. We become hopelessly outer-oriented. With every passing year, the pattern becomes more fixed, and we ourselves more convinced that the solution lies in more of the same. More control, more action-reaction, more identification, until we finally conquer and become master of the very environment that made us, or so we think. As someone once pointed out, this a good working definition of insanity. But here we are.
     We have become hypnotized by the world. Our mind, and the minds of those who taught us from birth, have convinced us that we are an individual, a separate 'thing' in a world of separated things. This sooner or later creates the unquestioned, complete identification with this illusory 'thing', this knot between the sentient Self and the world. This knot is called ego, nebulous at best, though it calls itself "I". Because we have transferred our very sense of being into something unreal, that must be continually created and enforced, we feel an underlying anxiety, a longing for something, something stable and inherently self-sufficient. We, as ego, mistakenly transform this anxiety into a hope and belief in fear and desire, and turn again and again to the world for the solution to our own mind-made problem. The Tibetan Book of the Dead gives us a hint at how serious this transference of meaning from the real to the unreal can be. Death of the body may not break the spell. Even in our dreams and fantasies, we are continually wandering, looking for safety and fulfillment in ego-building and unquestioned belief in our desires and fears. We have lost our Selves, and can only react to the creations of our own now desperate minds.
     As we continue through life, becoming more and more engrossed, our thoughts and actions reinforce themselves and the driving forces behind them, leaving less and less chance for any meaningful change. Just as in the world of the after-death Bardos, where at every step of the way the mind becomes more and more sensually oriented, more and more emotionally strident and confused, where in desperation, the wanderer eventually returns to life and the world of bodies and things in order to manifest its unconscious fears and desires, so is it also in this life. We wander from one game of desire to another, encouraged by success and pleasure, and driven by fear and our growing anxiety: the carrot and the stick that deny us any rest. We become obsessed with our health and possessions, and when faced with death, will do anything for even one more week of existence. We continue to turn towards life, bodies, and emotional highs and lows, making the same mistakes over and over, never guessing that the solution lies within, not in the manic, repetitious attempt to control the outer environment.
     The world is change. Any hiding place or fortification we crawl into, or pleasure palace we build, will fail us, someday. All form is subject to this never-ceasing change. Only in the Formless can we find the road Home. This wandering from bardo to bardo, dream to dream, gives no peace or true understanding. The true cure for our anxiety and longing is the death of the ego, not the body. We have lost our connection to our Inner Self, not some thing, or some needed control over things. Instead, with non-attachment and great attention, look at the world, at the little life you think you love and hate so much, and at your anxious fear of it, at your coming death. Question everything, especially your self. Then, hopefully this dream of existence will be seen for what it is; a never-ending play of form upon emotion, a wandering through desire and fear that never ceases.  Turn your attention back to your Source, to the Love within, and find peace for the wanderer, the lost traveler in the endless bardos of life, death, and dreams.

Bob Fergeson

Do you know, brother, that you are a prince? A son of Adam.
And that the witch of Kabul, who holds you with her color and her perfume, is the world?
Say the words, I take refuge with the Lord of the Daybreak.
Avoid the hot breathing that keeps you tied to her.  She breathes on knots
and no one can unknot them.
That's why the prophets came.
Look for those whose breath is cool. When they breathe on knots, they loosen.
You must marry your soul.That wedding is the way. Union with the world is sickness. - Rumi

 - Quotes of the Month -
" There is no death - because there is nothing to die. But we don't accept this because we want this identity to live - to be real. Accepting that there is nothing to die is acknowledging that the "we" we take as us is not - and the reality of that, we perceive as death! " - Bob Cergol
" God does not redeem the personal man by death.  He redeems Himself by freeing Himself from the personality of man." - Franz Hartmann
" Man is the Frankenstein of God. " - Richard Rose
" If I lived a billion years more, in my body or yours, there's not a single experience on earth that could ever be as good as being dead. Nothing." - Dr. Dianne Morrissey
" After the first glass you see things as you wish they were.  After the second, you see things as they are not. Finally you see things as they really are, and that is the most horrible thing in the world." - Oscar Wilde on the effects of absinthe.
" Spending time alone is a very spiritual thing for me. Sometimes I compare it to going to church. " - Aron Ralston

Comic Philosophy

"It's not that I'm afraid to die. I just don't want to be there when it happens." - Woody Allen
"They say such nice things about people at funerals that it makes me sad to realize that I'm going to miss mine by just a few days." - Garrison Keillor

 Dreams and Journaling: 08/20/09

Three Blind Men Crossing a Log - HakuinThis missal examines two related indirect methods of self-discovery: dreams and journaling. Many of us have encountered the slippery nature of our own ego. We often fall prey to the ego's ability to split itself in our search for our inner guide, and find our intellect and feeling easily fooled. By using a third party such as journaling or dream work, we can step outside of the many facets of ego and gain an impartial view of the creature we call ourselves.

Many find dream work and journaling through the advice of others, or are simply fascinated by web sites and the writings of famous authors. If one has the intuition that these tools could be of service in getting a glimpse of themselves unafforded by normal consciousness, consider yourself lucky, and get to work. The realization that much of what we think about ourselves is fantasy, wishful thinking and hearsay is not flattering, especially at first, but leads to an adventure like none other: the discovery of ourselves as we really are.

Journaling could be thought of as the waking states form of dream work. We write about what we see inside our head, and ponder why we do and think the way we automatically do. We can even write out our fantasies and daydreams, treating them as dream material for clues as to our inner fears and desires. The journal serves as an impartial record, to correct our memory and provide relevant material. Reading through a journal after many weeks can give a shocking view of one's state of mind of the time, when the current process of rationalization and projection looses its focus. We can get an idea of what state of mind we might currently have, as opposed to the story we usually tell ourselves.

Journaling should be a long term endeavor,  for many patterns and moods endlessly repeat. We may tend to forget this, thinking that the mood or state was temporary, or the pattern of thinking only a one shot affair. Journaling can reveal these patterns over time, and even return us to the forgotten wisdom of old, showing how the 28 day pattern of the moon and the cycles of the seasons affect us, and are part of our own makeup.

"A journal helps greatly so that you're not dependent on a memory that's subject to painting the picture erroneously. The journal should document what beliefs you have about what you are, which ones you've worked on and have seen through, and which one you're currently investigating." - Art Ticknor

"Journal writing is a voyage to the interior. " - Christina Baldwin

" When my journal appears, many statues must come down." - Arthur Wellesley
Dawn, Cane Bayou - photo by Bob Fergeson

Dream work is a similar endeavor, but a lot of honest work is needed in the understanding of it.  The reward can be greater as well, for in our dreams we may loose the ego safeguards that protect our precious self-concepts. The study of our dreams can be a first step into the mind, and a doorway to our unconscious. Our true motivations, the discovery of energy knots and hidden egos, can also be found through dreams.  The business of modern life with its hectic demands on our time and minds, leaves us little space to reflect and listen to our inner self. The down time of sleep is when the inner self can have a field day through the means of dreams.

Much can be said about dream interpretation.  The single most important aspect of this is to remember that you, and you alone, are the judge of what they mean. Your dreams are just that, your dreams. While there are symbols common to all of us, we may have very different associations regarding them. Depend only on your own 'felt validity'.  You will come to know when a dream is dead right in showing you something about yourself.

To start, remember before going to bed that you wish to remember your dreams.  A nightly meditation practice can help relax the mind before sleep.  Place a pencil and paper or tape recorder next to the bed, or use your laptop with dream journaling software. If you wake during the night, write down any dreams so far.  In the morning, schedule enough time not only to write down the night's dreams, but also to sit with them for awhile and put the dream into memory. .   

Dreams as a great way to clean out the inner ghosts by becoming aware of them. We may become aware of these mind patterns only through the relatively safe haven of dreams, then carry the knowledge into day-to-day life. When writing in the journal, remember to title the dream, and stay in present tense. Remember, you are the ego-character in the dream, there is no real stable 'you' character, so to speak, just different roles you identify with. The dream, and life, must be interpreted from an outside viewpoint, not from only the view point of the ego-dreamer.  Both sides must be understood. What patterns continually come up? What is the mood of the dream, the feel? The feeling state associated with it is important. What in daily life has a similar feel? Keeping a dream journal for a length of time is essential too, as the repeating patterns of dreams over time tells us much.

"You are always the final judge of what to believe they mean. By working with dreams, we can transcend mere opinion — yours, mine, and society’s—about how to live. One huge reward is to discover in dreams our own interior source of wisdom." - Dr. Ron Masa

" While men are dreaming, they do not perceive that it is a dream. Some will even have a dream in a dream, and only when they awake do they know it was all a dream. And so, when the Great Awakening comes upon us, shall we know this life to be a dream. Fools believe themselves to be awake now." - Chaung-tzu

Osprey at Dawn, Full Moon, Cane Bayou - photo by Bob Fergeson

Dream interpretation can be a fascinating adventure, making our nighttime hours an exciting source of self-discovery.  Help in interpreting the information can be had from many sources, so put on the dreaming body and see what's happening inside the world of your own mind.

- Related  Sites  -

Jeremy Taylor has worked with dreams for over thirty years; he blends the values of spirituality with an active social conscience and a Jungian perspective. Founding member and past president of the Association for the Study of Dreams, he has written three books integrating dream symbolism, mythology, and archetypal energy. The latest is: The Living Labyrinth: Universal Themes in Myths, Dreams and the Symbolism of Waking Life. His earlier books, Where People Fly and Water Runs Uphill, and Dream Work, have been translated into many languages.

The Self-Discovery Multi-Site Portal : What's behind the sense of 'I am'? Who's living, and who's facing death? Who or what am I, essentially? Throughout history occasional individuals have told of finding the answer to those questions, and their testimonies often have a surprising consistency.  For individuals seeking to find the answer for themselves, those testimonies provide helpful clues for pursuing the search to a successful conclusion.
    For some searchers, working by themselves is the preferred method. Others intuit that finding a few fellow seekers to work with may expedite their progress. Still more fortunate may be those who find a living person who has made the journey and can provide assistance from the perspective of that realization. The Self-Discovery site is designed to offer all three modes of help.

The University of Yourself : offers dream-work via teleconferencing, leading you to an understanding of your dreams through understanding yourself. Dr.Ron has his own unique blend of humor and understanding. "Dreams are filmed “live and in person” inside of you. They reveal the facts of your inner life. They contain profound insights about every aspect of your existence. And they do not know how to lie." -Dr. Ron Masa
 'Helping You Hear the Guide Inside'

The TAT Foundation: TAT is a non-profit, tax-exempt organization established in 1973 to provide a forum for philosophical and spiritual inquiry. TAT was founded on the belief that your investigation of life's mysteries is expedited by working with others who are exploring, perhaps down a different road, so that you may share your discoveries, exchange ideas, and "compare notes" in order to come to a better understanding of yourself and others.

Tricks and  Traps

Tricks: Here are three tricks to bridge the gap between our ego/idea of ourselves and our fact status:

1. Practice a technique for seeing the personality indirectly. In the beginning, we may not be able to see ourselves directly, so the use of techniques such as dream study or journaling can help get us started on the path of self-discovery. Reading back through a journal can be a shock, we may think we are an earnest, positive and altruistic seeker, when the journal notes may show us to be a negative whiner who thinks only of himself.

2. Group Work. Nothing can help with seeing ourselves quite as much as the mirror of a group. To take advantage of the group setting though, one may need to learn to listen. Even in the work place, we may be getting all the information about ourselves we need, but refuse to hear it.

3. Watch your emotions. Take the time to sit quietly twice a day, first thing in the morning and before you fall asleep, and see what your heart is telling you. Not to the endless justifications or judgments in the mind, but to the knots or tensions in the background. Can you feel these? What are they related to? Can you bring up words to describe these knots? Do you have mixed feelings about the days events? Where are the contradictions?


On Nostalgia and Desire

The cycle of desire and fulfillment may seem a trap of monumental proportions, but as all traps built in the framework of the mind, it has no inherent reality. Let's take a look at this cycle of desire, fear, and fulfillment, and how an ache of the heart turned within is our release.

We see that if we want something and then get it, we feel better.  After years of this cycle, we fall for the trick of believing that getting what we want is what life is about. And what would make us happy would be getting what we want, when we want it, all the time. We fail to look closer and see what has really taken place.  Fulfilling desire simply puts it to sleep, and leaves us in the state of no-desire. It causes no fundamental change, and sows the seeds for our future discontent. If we saw behind the circumstance, we would see that the state of no desire, or pre-desire, is what we long for, and would no longer move from it out into the dual dimension of pleasure and pain, the so-called reality of life. This state of peace has been there all along as our true nature, lying much closer than any pleasure object of the world. But this peace is not peace of mind. The mind is motion, and does not manifest in stillness. This state of no-desire is stillness itself, beneath and primal to mind, and is our rest.

This trap of desire and its fulfillment also involves forgetting. We forget we are fulfilled as we really are, within, and thus move away through temptation and trickery. Not from being pushed, but from being fooled. We have become mesmerized by the world and its sensations, and have forgotten the peace that lies within. A potent cocktail, equal parts faulty memory and a profound propensity towards fantasy and projection, mixed with fear of unfulfilled desire and death, topped off with a passion for grabbing onto everything that feels good, keeps us on the endless loop of turning our attention out into the world for fulfillment, coming back into ourselves to rest, and then going back out again. We have become identified with the world and it's dual nature, and have forgotten we are complete and forever in the state of fulfillment within, our true home. We are not an animal at heart, though we have come to believe this.

This leads to the longing of nostalgia and how we confuse the circumstances of our childhood events with a purer state within that was also present at the time. It is innocence and lack of guilt that we truly long for, a state before temptation and the chasms of the mind led us out into duality. We long for our childhood or nostalgic scenes, not because these props and times can provide peace, but because our inner state at the time was one of peace. We paint this inner state onto the scenery and confuse the two, fooled again. We mistake the event for the feeling, much as we do the act of fulfillment of desire with the state of no-desire. Nostalgia in its pure spiritual state is not the desire to live in a root-beer commercial, which might be nice, but the longing of our heart for its true state of oneness. Our inherent inner peace passeth all understanding, for to ego and mind, it's completely unbelievable.

Bob Fergeson

 - Quotes -

" It is only when we realize that life is taking us nowhere that it begins to have meaning." - P.D. Ouspensky
" We live in a fantasy world, a world of illusion. The great task in life is to find reality.'' - Iris Murdoch
" Poetry is the journal of a sea animal living on land, wanting to fly in the air. " - Carl Sandburg
" One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious." - Carl G. Jung
" Creative Writing is one of the most powerful tools available to explore our interior.  Often, we don't know how we feel until we write it down. Writing is a rare tool that allows us to dis-cover and to ex-press what is within. Once we have put our thoughts in writing, we can re-view them as if they belonged to another.  Ideas that are outside our head allow us to apply the full resources of perception... in ways usually reserved for outsiders." - Dr. Ron Masa
" Working with dreams" means remembering and exploring the dreams from sleep with an eye to their deeper meanings. Each one of us is uniquely blind to the deeper meanings of our own dreams, and dream work helps us see what amazing gifts are there, just below the surface of "manifest content" and obvious appearance. - Jeremy Taylor
" Felicity, the companion of content, is rather found in our own breasts than in the enjoyment of external things; and I firmly believe it requires but a little philosophy to make a man happy in whatever state he is." - Daniel Boone

Comic Philosophy

"Politics is supposed to be the second oldest profession.
I have come to realize that it bears a very close resemblance to the first." - Ronald Reagan

"You can lead a man to Congress, but you can't make him think" - Milton Berle

 Tension - 04/25/10

   This edition of the Missal highlights tension, and its use on the spiritual path. The containment and use of tension to bring about spiritual exaltation has been practiced for centuries. Fasting and celibacy have long been used to this effect, creating and storing tension normally dissipated in everyday life. The energy saved and stored by reducing the drains demanded by nature can be re-channeled into answering spiritual questions.  The normal system of following desire and avoiding fears can be lessened, and the energy and time redirected into the questioning process of self-discovery. This is a reversing of the energy vector by turning it away from the game of life and pointing it within, gaining insight into why we do what we do, and ultimately who we really are.

     For some, this process starts when life begins to be seen as a no-win situation. This may be brought about by trauma, sickness, insight or even a dream. We see that death levels the playing field, and life has no meaning in and of itself if looked at closely and with dispassion. This questioning of life  itself can create a tension, furthering the search for truth.

" We look out the window at this point and observe the world as a sorrowful slaughterhouse, a place of blood and carnage, wherein the most noble efforts of nature and the whole system of Tension lead and evolve only to semen, blood, and blockheads."

- Richard Rose
Effort in Self-Discovery

     The practice of using tension to further an aim can be seen as triangulation. We move along a baseline between fear and desire, maintaining through tension a seeming balance between the two forces. If we question the process in its entirety we may see the futility of the system, and thus move up and out of the trap. From the higher vantage point we see that the game of striving for what you want and avoiding what you don't ultimately collapses with old age and death. This point can be thought of as the apex of a triangle, above the line of desire and fear, the place where life is lived for a higher purpose.  We then are taking care of our life in order to keep it functioning well while pursuing our search for truth, rather than to feel good and not feel bad, only. Life becomes a field for education, rather than a party.

" If you feel the need for entertainment or escape, you are asleep."

- Richard Rose
entertainment and escape

     If we keep up the pressure by continuing to question life as well as ourselves, we stand a chance at actually transcending both. We find ourselves in a place where life, and the function of it we used to call "me", is seen as a self sustaining process which may actually function better without the ego's endless meddling. We can then take the energy we formerly used in maintaining the "me" or "I", and allow it to flow in the direction of our search for Truth and may come to understand that action and awareness are quite capable of not interfering with one another. Action can continue unfettered while being impartially observed, while awareness also does not need a "doer" to function. The spell of identification with life leads us to think we must keep it afloat by sheer mental and emotional effort, and we also have been led to believe that awareness must somehow be created or enabled by some clever act of thought. The endless play of tension between the opposites is life itself, the dance of the viewer and his view, and its transcendence is freedom.

" Tension is the prime element in any spiritual exaltation. Sometimes the tension is accumulated and unconsciously endured over a period of years... Life is tension at work."

- Richard Rose

- Related  Sites  -

Conciliation of Opposites, from Art Ticknor's recap of Hubert Benoit's main ideas in his book The Supreme Doctrine.

Tricks and Traps: "All tricks are for destroying the ego-centric fantasy that we actually exist, as the body/mind or anything else for that matter, and for freeing us from believing that there is such a thing as an individual 'self '."  

Three Forces of Tension: Explanation of the third force in manifestation, by Maurice Nicoll

Tricks and  Traps

Trap: Believing in escapist fantasies. Many of us escape from life's pain and frustrations by traveling to a dream world in which there is no resistance to our being fulfilled. We think that "if only" we could somehow find this place of least resistance, we would then, and only then, be happy. The actual net effect of this is to keep us out of the present moment and longing for a future where we will finally get what we want, but which can never be. "Poor pitiful me.....if only...."
Trick: Learning the value of tension. To get in shape, we subject our bodies to forms of tension by working out. The mind and emotions are no different. Without practical problems to solve, our intellect is never improved. Without failure and trouble, our emotions are never tempered. Without struggling with great perplexity, our intuition is never called upon to speak.

I've found when viewing landscape photos that the mind plays a trick. I look at the beautiful scene and imagine myself there, carefree and full of wonder. But if I look at the same type of shot that I myself took, say of a mountain vista, I can see the trick. I can remember that when taking the photo, I was actually cold, uncomfortable, the wind was biting, I was hungry, sore, and bone tired. It was not the nirvana of the senses that the vista suggests. Our imagination loves to play this trick. It conjures lovely scenes and leads us to believe there will be no tension there, no resistance. Such a place is seldom found outside the mind's fantasies, and even if it were, we would soon stagnate and grow weary of its bland, one dimensional lack of substance.


Containing Tension

"We are cowards, and what we witness about us is a dynasty of fear in a play house of desires." - Richard Rose

      Most of us go through life with no clear awareness of our limited time and energy, but instead continue to plan and plot our way along as if nothing will ever really change. We live to have fun, known as the pursuit of happiness, making our forays into the world of pleasure from a base of imagined security. Driven by the fear that our security is tenuous at best, we rush to have even more fun, before the circle of our dissipation and paranoia collapses in on itself. We never question our motivations or bother to define what we mean by happiness, perhaps because of an inner intuition that that would take the fun out of it. Let's take a look at what this pursuit really is, and how it can be turned from a struggle downhill into frustration and bitterness into a change of being.
     This pursuit of happiness can best be defined as the pursuit of a fading memory, a memory of a time when some outside agent gave us a thrill of such magnitude we can't forget it, or else it relieved our anxiety so well as to leave us in a state of unusual peace. Being creatures of habit, we try repeating the same sequence of events that gave us the previous result. This cycle is sooner or later found to be one of ever-decreasing returns. We find the thrill or release lessen, while the inducing agent is needed in ever greater quantity. We never question the process itself. We never wonder why we even need an outside agent in order to feel happy, at peace, or complete. Only when the agent turns on us, and becomes the deliverer of pain and misery instead, do we stop. Even then, we still seldom question the process, but think we can beat the system by getting a new, improved agent and becoming cleverer in its application.

"As incredible as it sounds, an unhappy man does not realize that happiness is better than unhappiness. Knowing only his own concealed anguish, he worships it, which is the same as self-worship. " - Vernon Howard

     This unconscious trap of worshipping our own weakness keeps us from becoming strong. We fail to realize that the tensions we feel, as anxieties or prompting's, are the very things that will free us from all need, if we stand up to them. By giving in to every prod and poke that comes into our consciousness, we give away our time and energy to nothing, and keep nothing with which to build our mental strength and intuition. Through resisting these daily irritations and promptings, we save our vitality and time, which can then be put to use on the spiritual path. We also become something, something that has a greater capacity. We can think clearer, have more time for study, and come to have a resistance to the inner noise, which used to send us running for distraction or numbness. We will have increased our capacity for storing tension dramatically, much like putting our money in a bank that pays high interest, to be used for something of true value when the time presents itself, rather than spending every dime in our pocket, and relegating ourselves to living paycheck to paycheck. Eventually, we will also have gained enough inner quiet to possibly hear something from within, giving our intuition a chance to be heard.

 "Be very careful that you do not unconsciously assume that nervous tension is power. This is vital. Watch yourself the next time you work toward some goal. Look very closely to discover tense feelings and nervous thoughts whirling around inside. Do not let them deceive you into assuming that they are creative forces; they are not. They are thieves of genuine powers. As always, your awareness of their thievery is your first fine step toward casting them out. " - Vernon Howard

     The energy we feel as excitement or thrills, is not the energy we are after. This is just the frenzy of a nervous mind, of thoughts and needs wanting to take advantage of us in exchange for a brief moment of peace when our stolen energy is gone. True strength and peace is in an increased capacity for tension. By increasing this capacity, we increase our resistance to the effects of life. We become calmer in the face of stress, and can think clearer under pressure. By virtue of our increased intuition, we may even begin to see through many of the traps we formerly succumbed to. Our patience will increase, and we will not panic and run when unflattering truths about ourselves come into the light of day. We will be able to sit and meditate for the lengths of time necessary to gain insight into these truths about ourselves, no longer giving into distraction, fear or pride.
     Through this reversal of the trap of dissipation into the discipline of containment, we gain a chance at freedom, and have become something more than a utility of forces unseen.  We now have the possibility of using our limited time and energy in real ways in the pursuit of self-discovery. Our imaginary life of having our cake and getting to eat it, too, becomes instead a life with a true direction, towards truth and self-knowledge leading to real happiness. The Kingdom of Heaven is truly within, and we will not find it by taking our pleasure and meaning from without, from the world and its ceaseless change and pain.
     The next time you feel an inner prod, an urge, an itch from below which you know can only be scratched at the price of your peace of mind, do not think that relief is in doing what it wants. Try resisting, turn away. We graduate from crawling by gaining enough strength to stand up and walk. Walking upright depends on having enough capacity for tension to resist falling down. Be patient, and learn to walk without wobbling. The view is better and you can cover greater ground. By this resistance, become something greater than the world, and take your meaning and definition from the silent strength you then find within.

“To avoid action, thou must first determine for great action.” - Richard Rose

Bob Fergeson

 - Quotes -

" The average state of Man is that he thinks he is what he is not and he thinks he is not what he is.
" No one can grow in a psychological or spiritual sense unless his self-liking is disturbed.
" Truth lies between the opposites. "- Maurice Nicoll
" Common sense tells us that the things of the earth exist only a little, and that true reality is only in dreams." - Charles Baudelaire
" People are able to continue living or tolerate life by putting serious thoughts as far back as possible. Something inside the individual does not wish to examine its potential for oblivion. The human mind does not want to see anything negative about itself.
" We are unaware of this life of make-believe, simply because we live it as reality." - Richard Rose

Comic Philosophy

Nothing for Nothing gets you Nothing   

"To err is human, to forgive divine." - Alexander Pope
"To err is human, but it feels divine" - Mae West

 12 Step - 10/23/09

This edition of the Missal looks at the 12 Step recovery program and it's spiritual aspect. The 12 Steps had their beginnings in the 1930's when AA was getting started. A group of recovering alcoholics, including Bill W., were attempting to put the principals of their program in writing. They had come through their experiences with alcohol addiction with the knowledge that a spiritual element was paramount in any lasting recovery. They also realized the spiritual element was the governing factor that gave an addict a new chance at life without obsession, and had to be renewed or practiced daily.

12 Step groups exist for many types of addictions or obsessions, including narcotics, over eating, gambling and even shopping. The groups focus on their particular obsession, only.  AA only allows alcoholics into its closed meetings, for example. While this may seem unnecessary or trivial, it serves an important purpose. It keeps the member from losing focus on their main problem, through rationalization, distraction and denial.  The families and loved ones affected by alcoholics and addicts have also formed groups using the 12 Steps, such as Al-anon and NA-anon. These groups realize that a family state of mind can foster addictive behavior, enabling the addict through the help of those he loves.

Admitting that one cannot control one's addiction or compulsion;
    Recognizing a greater power that can give strength;
    Examining past errors with the help of a sponsor
(experienced member);
    Making amends for these errors;
    Learning to live a new life with a new code of behavior;
    Helping others that suffer from the same addictions or compulsions.

American Psychological Association
photo by Bob Fergeson

The basic principals of the 12 Steps are admission of the problem, that a higher Power exists and can help, honesty with self and others, and helping our fellows in similar situations. The founders of AA soon saw that the addiction was three fold, affecting body, mind and spirit. The physical problem was referred to as an allergy, to describe how an addict's body is affected so readily, and must have the drink or drug, or suffer. The mental addiction is manifested by the addicts insistence that repeating the same behavior will have different results along with the inability to stop in spite of resolutions, promises, negative consequences, etc. The spiritual malady exposes the root of the problem, being an extreme self-centeredness, an obsession with self. This illness of the spirit is changed through a surrender or deep humility, followed by a growth of conscience and sense of moral values. The person manifests this in his life through a willingness for self-sacrifice and unselfish constructive action, especially in the direction of helping those with a similar malady as his own.

1. We admitted that we were powerless over alcohol.
2. We got honest with ourselves.
3. We got honest with another person, in confidence.
4. We made amends for harms done others.
5. We worked with other alcoholics without demand for prestige or money.
6. We prayed to God to help us to do these things as best we could.

Early steps of AA, remembered by Bill W.
photo by Bob Fergeson

The problem of how to become honest is more difficult than one might think for an addict whose intellect has been mainly used to rationalize any form of behavior in the name of his obsession. This ability of the mind to fool itself necessitated that the addict have a clean and sober friend to check his thinking. This friend is another alcoholic with more experience in the 12 Steps, called a sponsor or accountability partner. This use of another trusted partner to hold one accountable is a good trick or tool to keep the mind from buying into its own obsession-fueled imaginings related to the mental problems mentioned above.

The writer Wei Wu Wei once remarked that our problems stem from doing everything for our "selves", and there isn't one. Paul Hedderman calls this kind of thinking "selfing", where the mind's activity is spent, or misspent, upholding its idea of itself. Hedderman points out that since such a thing as self doesn't exist, the mind isn't thinking of a real object, but is creating an illusion as it thinks, "selfing". Obsessive thinking such as this brings misery upon the person involved, and escape from it becomes paramount. A drink, a drug, a compulsive behavior, they all serve as relief, a medicine for the sick mind. The price becomes higher than we can afford sooner or later, and the cure becomes the disease. Until the underlying problem is dealt with the person will turn from one escape to another. The alcoholic gives up drinking to become obsessed with money, the drug addict becomes a fanatical preacher. The 12 Steps offer a way to deal with not only the apparent obsession or medicine/disease, but to get down to the root cause, that of identification with a dysfunctional personality or ego. One could say that the principals of the 12 Steps could be used as a spiritual path for freeing oneself of the this identification, even if the ego was healthy and functioning. But without the fire of misery and pain from addiction and disease providing incentive, few would be willing to make that move.

- Related  Sites  -

Paul Hedderman: What is the Sound of One Hand Slapping?  Paul has a unique style and approach to the problem of addiction and ignorance. Speaking from experience and insight, he offers a path to self-knowledge as well as a route out of obsession.Bridge Newcomers Guide: So you think that you might be interested in or desperate for (or somewhere in-between) working a 12 step program? How do you get started? Click here -

Serenity Found:  "As we grow in recovery we become more and more aware that our primary purpose is to carry the message to others still suffering from their addiction."

Tricks and  Traps

Trick: Getting sober takes a lot of help. We count on others to help us get sober from the high of self, but seem to forget this once we're back on our feet.

Trap: Once sober, we forget. Once we get back on our feet and full of energy, we tend to forget how we slipped in the first place. Sobriety tends to make us cocky and feel we're invincible, thus we make the same old mistakes and fall down harder than before.

Trick: Stay in the fold. When you're on top, stay humble by helping those less fortunate, and keeping the friends who helped you close at heart.

 - Four Versions of The Serenity Prayer -

For every ailment under the sun
There is a remedy, or there is none;
If there be one, try to find it;
If there be none, never mind it.

- Mother Goose

Lord, grant me
Serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can, and
Wisdom to know the difference.

- Reinhold Niebuhr

Sunbeams over Lake Ponchartrain - photo by Bob Fergeson

Guide me that I might see clearly.
Bless me that I might understand.
Strengthen me that I might live my understanding.
- Robert Cergol

May we have the clarity to see what
is required of us,
the courage to accept it,
and the capacity to discharge it.  

- Robert Fripp

Commentary                                              ___________________Mystic Missal  Monthly Missal meditation philosophy  zen religion

Finding a Teacher

Finding a true spiritual teacher is much like finding a good job. With the advent of the internet the search can be conducted primarily online. With the wealth of information the internet brings, it is now easier to discriminate between spiritual teachers before meeting them, sort out the good and bad, and review their systems. Some only work through email and the phone, making traveling long distances to make initial contact unnecessary. Do your research, ask questions, and the right teacher can be found.

Find your true interest. What branch or style of esotericism appeals to you and your long term goals? Any experience with teachers in the past by you or your friends can help pinpoint your search. Detail what interests you about spritual work. What are your strengths and weaknesses in the realm of science, reason, and intuition?

Do your research. Spend time on the internet and find the pertinent information on your interests. Researching a teacher should be done with the same discrimination and effort you would use in a job search or selecting a university. If you find a teacher that appeals to you, make contact with him and begin a dialogue through email or phone.

Find out the costs. A good sign if a teacher is on the level or not is how much, if anything, they charge for the teaching. While most teachers should and do ask their students to pay their own way, taking a profit in spiritual work implies a motive other than the passing of knowledge. Ask him what following his teaching will entail in terms of time and money.

Inquire of the teacher's students, both past and present. Find out how they found the teacher and why they follow him. Don't be afraid to find out the dirt and details, many teachers conceal their true motivations behind a mask of disciples and ritual. On the other hand, respect the teacher and his commitment. Many donate their time and effort to teaching, and have a busy schedule balancing work and spiritual interests.

If possible, meet the teacher face to face. No true teacher should have anything to hide about his teaching, and should provide some opportunity for students to meet with him. Many hold conferences or retreats where the setting is conducive to meeting them and students can get to know the teachers methods and beliefs. Ask her what you can expect to gain from the teaching, what she has to offer, and how she came to to be a teacher.


Take advantage of a teacher's website. Sign up for their forums and message boards, and get to know the members.
Attend conferences and retreats with the teacher. Acquaint yourself with him and his students and get a feel for them.


A reliance on too much secrecy and ritual could be a warning sign that the teacher and his group are not what they advertise. Be careful if they are vague about the teaching and its results, and charge exorbitant fees.
Teachers who have real knowledge to impart have no need to surround themselves with flattering students and disciples. If the group surrounding the teacher claim his secret teaching is only for the elite or inner circle, be careful.
Excessive praise from teachers promising an easy path are warning signs also. No metaphysical teaching worth following is that easy.

Bob Fergeson

 - Quotes -

" The good is often the enemy of the best.
".... nobody invented Alcoholics Anonymous. It just grew... by the grace of God." - Bill W.
" The best way to get out of something is to realize you were never in it." - Paul Hedderman
" You can act your way into the right thinking, but you can't think your way into the right action." - William James
" Whenever a civilization or society declines or perishes there is always one condition present - they forgot where they came from." - Carl Sandburg
" When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything in the universe." - John Muir
" No authentic messenger of truth ever tries to reform society, teaching only individual and inner change to those who want it."  - Vernon Howard

Comic Philosophy

The boxes say"Existence" and "Non-Existence"

Twelve Steps of a Relapse

1. I decided I could handle any emotional problems if other people would just quit trying to run my life.
2. I firmly believe that there is no greater power than myself and anyone who says differently is insane.
3. I made a decision to remove my will and my life from God, who didn't understand me anyway.
4. I made a searching and thorough moral inventory of everyone I know, so they couldn't fool me and take advantage of my good nature.
5. I sought these people out and tried to get them to admit to me, by God, the exact nature of their wrongs.
6. I became willing to help these people get rid of their defects of character.
7. I was humble enough to ask these people to remove their shortcomings.
8. I kept a list of all the people who had harmed me, and waited patiently for a chance to get even.
9. I got even with these people whenever possible except when to do so would get me into trouble.
10. I continue to take everyone's inventory and when they are wrong, which is most of the time, I promptly make them admit it.
11. Sought through the concentration of my willpower to get God, who didn't understand me anyhow, to see that my desires were best, and He ought to give me the power to carry them out.
12. Having maintained my emotional problems with these steps, I can thoroughly recommend them to others who don't want to lose their hard-earned status, but wish to be left alone to practice neurosis in everything they do for the rest of their days.

from Serenity Found's Humor collection:

 Copyright  2010 -  Robert Fergeson. All Rights Reserved.