Richard Rose Interview
Moderator: Michael was a good friend of Richard Rose and will tell us about him.
Richard Rose, age 88, author, poet, lecturer, philosopher, and perhaps the greatest of America’s unheralded Zen Teachers, died on July 6, 2005. He is sorely missed by his family and countless friends, and will be remembered by all as a man who dedicated his life to Truth, without equivocation.
Over the course of his lifetime, Rose investigated nearly every religious, philosophic, psychological, and esoteric spiritual system available, beginning with his early years spent in a Catholic seminary. He wanted, simply, to know God. He once recalled filling page after page with a child’s script “Many are called but few are chosen.” At the young age of 12 he dedicated his life to Truth, though it would take over two decades and endless tangents before he would finally discover that Truth, or as he would later say, become that Truth.
After leaving the seminary, Rose attended college to major in chemistry, hoping, he said, “to discover the secret of life in the study of atoms.” After three years he realized that science was truly the serpent engorged on its own tail, and he left college to pursue other avenues. He investigated the “fringe” sciences: palmistry, astrology, and the Tarot. He attended séances and was present at a genuine materialization, an experience that he described as worth very little. “The dead know nothing,” he said, quoting the Bible, and he turned his attention to other pursuits.
At the age of 20 he delved into Hatha yoga, and then Raja yoga and hypnosis. He was a strict vegetarian. He did not smoke, or drink alcohol, tea, or even coffee. He wanted to make himself the laboratory, he said. He wanted to purify the instrument that was doing the looking. He was also totally celibate for seven years, from the age of 21 until he was 28, at which time he began to have doubts about his grand adventure. Upon looking in the mirror he saw a fellow whose hair and teeth were falling out and whose once proud features were aging rapidly. He began to think of “chucking it all”, getting married, and “hatching a few kids”. If that’s all life was, he figured he might as well go for it.
Sometime in 1947 he traveled to Seattle, Washington, to hook up with a girl he wanted to marry. This trip would prove to be both his undoing and his deliverance. For it was during this visit that he had a cataclysmic experience that he later discovered Ramana Maharshi had called Nirvikalpa Sahaja Samadhi, wherein the river has reached the ocean and is no more. The English word is simply “Enlightenment”.
He married shortly thereafter and spent the next 25 years working and raising a family. He continued to meet informally with a small group of friends every week, who had pledged themselves to the Search. He carried on an extensive correspondence with anyone who claimed an interest or discoveries in the area of esoteric philosophy, including a Zen teacher on the East Coast, from whom he learned the lost art of Transmission of Mind. He painted houses and bridges by day and spent his evening hours reading and writing. Later he self-published his first book, in 8-1/2” x 11” format, called “The Albigen Papers”. He said he never expected to get rid of even 100 copies, though today it is in its third printing.
His first opportunity to speak publicly came in 1972 at the Pittsburgh Theosophical Society, where he spoke on Zen. This humble beginning opened the floodgates, and over the next twenty years he lectured at many major universities across the country. He conducted “Intensive Retreats”, gave hypnosis demonstrations, and he also wrote five more books, republished a number of others, and used his rural West Virginia farm as the location for what was probably the last truly esoteric school in America. Most impressive was the fact that he shunned nearly all publicity, fame, money and accolades. He lived humbly, so humbly, in fact, that many students who came to the farm were totally amazed at the poverty of the area, and the simple unpretentious lifestyle where outhouses and carrying water from the spring were daily occurrences.
The essence of his teaching, quite simply, focused on what he called the process of Becoming. “You cannot learn the truth,” he often said. “You can only become the truth.” At times, there were as many as 25 students living at the Farm, some in old school buses, some in rustic cabins, some in tents, and a few lucky ones in the old farmhouse’s second-floor bedrooms. Rent was a paltry $20.00 per month, and every person provided their own food. Each person also had a shelf in the kitchen, and their own pots and pans. This was no hippie-idyllic lifestyle where everyone ate out of the same pot. Rose was a stickler for self-sufficiency. He also said there was “nothing wrong with a little one-up-man-ship.” Competition, he said, kept people sharp and inspired.
Rose’s system of teaching was laid out in the first book, The Albigen Papers, a spiritual handbook he called it. He said a man must look under every rock, if necessary, and be willing to search for Truth as if his life and sanity depended on it. He himself said he was willing to accept death or insanity, to find out WHO WAS LIVING.
Today’s modern world of technology is not only a world of endless cigarettes and magazines and web pages, but also an endless stream of so-called “enlightened” teachers. There’s one under every rock, around every corner, and on every web page it seems. This was not the case when Mr. Rose was engaged in his search. He often spent weeks or months tracking down a book or a teacher whom he heard might “know something”.
What sets Richard Rose apart from this morass of pseudo-gurus is the one simple fact that he could transmit his Experience. In Zen it is called Transmission of Mind. There are many stories told by his students over the years of the effects of Rose’s mind, on theirs, when the mood was right. The heights a student reached were in direct proportion to the strength of their commitment, the level of their Being, and of course, to the extent of their Fate or Destiny. Rose always deferred to “that which Is” or “that which is supposed to happen”. This was also part of his esoteric formula for Between-ness. The thing to do, he said, was to make your entire life an act of Between-ness. Between here and there, lies eternity.
Small groups started in cities where he lectured, and these early groups were called “Pyramid Zen Society”, reflecting that all human endeavor is pyramidal in form, and referring to Zen as the most perfect psychological system that would lead one to the ultimate or Absolute Truth. These groups were the esoteric core of what later became the TAT Society. Many Chautauquas were held in various cities, and at the Farm, where people from all disciplines were invited to speak, and gather to meet their fellows.
Rose maintained that the Path was a three-fold path: The Way, The Truth, and the Life – or the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangat. The Sangat, or the school, was most important, for generating more-than-proportional returns on one’s energy investment in the search. And Rose valued friendships on the path, to an extreme degree. “There’s no religion greater than friendship,” he said over and over. One of his most haunting poems, is titled the same. The poem sums up Rose’s entire philosophy of life, the search, and relationships with our fellow seekers.
I passed through a deep crevice at twilight,
And I saw a narrow vista of trees,
Magical in the mists—
Vocal to the hush of meaning,
Whispering to the wisdom of shades,
Before the backdrop of Eternity.
And I had a friend,
Whose dust with mine was not the bond,
Whose love with mine was not the bond,
Whose teaching with me was not the bond.
But both of us had been to this same place,
to the twilight in the narrow crevice,
And because of this place, we are Eternal.
R. Rose 1980
It has been said that Mr. Rose, as he was called by his students, (nobody knows how it started but that’s the way it was) was a “Contact Teacher”; and anyone who spent an hour with him would concur without quibble. Rose lit up a room, in so many ways. He electrified the space. He woke people up with hour upon hour of monologue, dialogue, diatribe, gut-busting humor, and pointed barbs that made your sleep miserable. Once after patiently cajoling a young lady who was impatiently correcting his grammar and view on what was sacred, he very pointed said “I know how to talk to you. Let me make you miserable. Let me make you miserable until you find the truth.” The delivery was potent enough to take the enamel off your teeth. The young lady left in tears, and Rose lamented the fact that he was unable to communicate with her, a situation he attributed to the presence of entities, commonly called “possession”. He was entirely capable of exorcism, a feat witnessed by over fifty people on at least two separate occasions. But, “That’s not my job,” he said.
Rose taught that a man must become a Vector toward Truth, but he simultaneously cautioned that since we do not know what Truth is, the only sure-fire way to approach it is to “back away from untruth” in our lives. And this has to begin on the most mundane level, more mundane than most “spiritual” people care to admit. “You guys all want to go to heaven,” he said, “and you can’t even change a tire.” Thus, the truth has to begin in little things, in little honest admissions about ourselves, and the way we live our lives. “There’s garbage and things that smell worse than garbage,” he said, “and you got to be able to tell the difference.”
Rose wrote 6 books, and recommended a handful of others to serious seekers. He thought Gurdjieff was the most astute psychologist of the Western world, and that every person who wants to understand the human mind should learn to hypnotize. To that end, he republished a long-out-of-print book by Santanelli, the only book he ever found that really explained hypnosis. He also wrote “The Meditation Papers” where he described his own system of irritational meditation, since he believed that we would be quiescent enough after the undertaker finished with us, and that in order to wake up we must maintain a level of irritation and tension.
His most obscure writing, “The Psychology of the Observer”, outlines in very few pages how the mind works, and the actual process a person goes through as they become more aware. The last lines are in the book are chilling. “Achieving a union with Essence is the equivalent of losing the mind … be assured of one comfort should such befall you: all who have attained … who have lost their minds, or who are about to lose their minds, will recognize you.” Read at your own risk.
“Energy Transmutation, Between-ness, and Transmission” is a book unlike any other in print. In it you will read the truth about how life happens, and what makes things work. Rose originally offered this book only to serious people whom he felt could understand its contents, but later capitulated to make it available to the public. The secrets revealed therein will stun many, offend some, and for a few, provide the impetus for the Big Trip.
His other books include Carillon, a book of poetry that will literally tear your heart out, if you can stand it, and Profound Writings East and West, which is a compilation of writings by Maharshi, Blavatsky, Francis Thompson, Franz Hartmann, Rose’s “Lecture of Questions”, and his poetic description of his own Enlightenment experience “The Three Books of the Absolute”.
Finally, for those who have the capacity to develop sensitivity and intuition, he wrote “The Direct Mind Experience”, which contains transcribed lectures, miscellaneous writings and essays, all pointing to the real essence of the Ultimate Experience: Direct Mind. No words, no letters, a direct apprehension of “That which Is”. Priceless information at any cost, overlooked by many, pooh-poohed by most, and only treasured by a distinct few.
Richard Rose cannot be categorized or cataloged, nor does he fit in with modern politically correct isms, nor did he care for kudos, money, fame, or followers. He lived his life as an open book, and unlike today’s so-called “teachers” (who are no longer teaching but just selling books) Rose’s door was ALWAYS open, and he was ALWAYS available by phone, and he ALWAYS answered personal letters. When asked why he did what he did (travel, talk, and teach for free) he once said, “The only sane reason I could give you is that I’m crazy.” Thus spake the guru…
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Richard Rose Questions
Q. Tell us about your relationship with Richard Rose, Michael.
I met Mr. Rose at Kent State University in 1973. He gave a public talk, titled “Lecture of Questions”. At the time I was enmeshed in the hippie culture, and psychologically miserable due to a combination of unhealthy dissipations and classic childhood traumas. I was looking for peace of mind, and had no success via the standard avenues, meaning the Catholic Church, various mental health professionals, and some investigations into the raging pop psychology-of-the-day Arthur Janov’s Primal Scream. I had recently returned from California, where I’d met Janov and been rejected as a “candidate” for his outrageously expensive therapy. I should’ve sent him a thank you card, since on the rebound I ran into Mr. Rose, who ultimately not only saved my life but opened the doors to a new perception. I have been his student and friend since that time, and I’ve never regretted one minute of those many years.
Q. Michael, can you tell us something about Mr. Rose’s enlightenment experience?
Oh boy, you don’t waste any time, do you? There’s not much I can say that isn’t written already elsewhere on the web, but I can tell you the best way to get any kind of insight into his Experience is to read the poem at the back of his book, The Albigen Papers. It’s called “The Three Books of the Absolute”. If you’re sensitive you might pick up the mood, and it’s mood that can bring on the adventure, let’s say. In days gone by, at Intensive retreats, he’d often pick out a few students, and have me read the poem aloud to them. Sometimes people would break down, as did I – most recently when I read it to him as he lay dying. I read it maybe 5 or 6 times, over the course of 7 days, and once or twice it seemed like he was reading it to me with my voice. Once there was a small group of family and friends in the room, and the Mood was there. All I can tell you is his experience was genuine, as was he. My assessment is based on 35 years of close rapport with him. He KNEW what was Real. He was THERE. Words are so inadequate, really. If you spent even a few minutes with him, you’d get the picture real quick.
Mr. Rose’s poem, “The Three Books of the Absolute” isn’t yet available on the web, partly because it is about 10-11 pages long and quite an intense read, to say the least. However, I have been given permission by RosePublications.Com, who has the copyright on his written works, to post some excerpts from the poem. The entire poem is available, as I mentioned, in the Albigen Papers, and in Profound Writings East and West.
Even though Rose studied “classic” forms of poetry, along with Latin and Greek, while he was in the seminary, he preferred “free verse” for its ability to express the most subtle profound thoughts and experiences. This poem, he said, was written in one sitting, without any thought to composition or any editing. He said it could never be said any better by him. Below are a few lines from Book I. It’s not difficult to sense the romantic-nostalgic flavor of the ensuing mood…
The Three Books of the Absolute
by Richard Rose
Out of the valley of the river came a wanderer. Peace was in his eye and his soul was wrapped in Nirvana. Peace to the wanderer.
O Eternal Essence, I was that Wanderer. I it was who left the gardens of tranquility that I might labor for Truth.
I sought Thee, O Eternal Essence, in the grottoes and in the tabernacles. I called out thy name to the stone ears of statues. And Thou answered not.
I sought Thee, O Eternal Essence, in the lips of sages, in the mysterious code of the Arcana, in the words of saviors, and in the ether of the cosmos. And Thou answered not.
I sought Thee in the voice of nature. I looked for Thee in the footprints of animals, in the habits of birds. I listened for a revelation in the murmuring of waters and in the soft moaning of the forests. I laid my ear against the roaring cataracts and bared my head to the tempests. But Thou answered not.
I have sought Thee, O Eternal Essence, within my Self. I have sought Thee in my mind with my mind until I was cursed with confusion. And I saw Thee not…
[ … ]
…For the keeper of the House is gone, and all that remains testifies that he never was. Exploding thunder shakes its walls, and heaven and hell are within its region. …All joy is here, and all of joy is pain, torturing the House that cannot contain it.
I, oh Eternal Essence, beseech Thee,–where within Thee have I dissolved myself?
Q. What were Mr. Rose’s beliefs about afterlife?
Mr. Rose said there were three very important questions a person had to answer in life:
1. Who am I?
2. Where did I come from?
3. Where am I going after I die?
He did not “believe” in heaven or hell, if that’s what you’re asking, although he did think that people who believed in such afterlife states (bardos) may end up there, BUT THEY WOULD ONLY BE ENTERING ANOTHER DREAM-WORLD LIKE THIS ONE. He was interested in accounts such as Moody presented in Life After Life, and Kübler-Ross (On Death and Dying). He was always looking for proof, that something more REAL than this life existed. Not proof for himself, but proof for others, so that they might become inspired and begin to look. He said his proof came with his Enlightenment experience. It should be noted that “you” as you know yourself, don’t survive death, but that something survives, and that something is what the Spiritual Search is all about. He used the phrase “Union with the Absolute” to describe the nature of Enlightenment. Beyond that it’s ineffable and indescribable with words. “The paradox permeates all things,” he often cautioned his students.
Q. Can you tell us something of Mr. Rose’s beliefs about “being the truth” and turning away from “untruth?” How is the average everyday person supposed to determine what is “untruth?”
These are important questions that go to the heart of the Path. Mr. Rose spoke of truth in two aspects: small “t” relative truth and Capital “T” Absolute Truth. He said that early in his life he realized that he was never going to learn the Truth, he could only become the Truth, through a change of being. Changes of being come about only after one has become aware of one’s consciousness, or aware of one’s self. He used capital and small letters to denote difference in quality. Meaning the small “s” self is the everyday ego-based “me” we all identify with. His main assertion is that we cannot hope to become capital “T” Truth, or Absolute Truth, while continuing to lie to ourselves in the little things. For example, we tell our children that there’s a Santa Claus, or we promise to be at such-and-such a place by 10:00 and we arrive at 10:30. We engage in pretense, acting devout, while we cheat on our taxes or make our way to a raucous tailgate drinking party or other things like that. Basically, the Albigen System demands that we LOOK AT OURSELVES, right where we are now, and stop pretending. We don’t know if we have a soul, we don’t know if there’s a God or a heaven. The only thing we do know is the body dies. That’s our starting point. It helps to have some sincere friends who will act as mirrors for us, with no ego-based motivations. Like in Zen they say “The mind of the perfect man is but a mirror. It reflects everything, it grasps nothing”. That’s the ticket.
Some questions by “Selfless” on manifesting reality, and the Absolute
Q. I would like to hear about Rose’s view on whether we are able to manifest our reality or whether it is scripted. Also, what were his beliefs regarding the union of the absolute in regards to being or not being? Let me re-phrase it more directly: Are we the absolute manifested or are we a reflection of the absolute?
Mr. Rose himself was a master of Between-ness, if you will, meaning he understood the laws of creation. That’s a tall order. In the little book Psychology of the Observer, he talks about Manifested Mind and Un-manifested Mind, the latter being “the prop-room of creation”. He said it’s possible to “change the projection a little bit, now and then” – IF, and it’s a big if, it’s in the cards. Nothing goes against Fate or Destiny, yet it may be Fate or Destiny that so-and-so walks on water next Thursday at noon. He said “Quite possibly, everything is scripted, right down to what you had for breakfast this morning”. And, “Things occur and you agree” is the case, as opposed to our actively “manifesting reality”. Again, he cautioned frequently that “the Paradox permeates all things”. The hang-up in the reasoning is that “we”, as used in your question, don’t really exist. Be we forget that most often.
“Are we the Absolute manifested or are we a reflection of the Absolute?” is almost a trick question. Everything is a manifestation of the Absolute, for nothing exists outside the Absolute BY DEFINITION. Rose said these types of discussions are like the early Church fathers arguing how many angels will fit on the head of a pin? He argued that “words will do you no good. To Become, you must act.”
Q. What would he say keeps us stuck in untruth?
Rose maintained that we’re programmed animals, just like cattle. And just as the man stranded in the desert projects a mirage, we project and believe in our projections. In this action we “fool” the anterior Self (the higher Self).
“In the robot, the Designer placed a little curiosity, to keep the robot moving once it was assembled and born, so that the Designer would not have to perform every motion for every robot.
But the robot became curious about his origin, and immediately the Designer became a direction of the curiosity.
In the robot the Designer placed an ability to recreate, so that that which was created creates, not only by reproducing, but also by projecting mental creations. And all of this was designed to transform the robot into a self-sustaining unit.
And thereupon the original creation with its orderly intentions was placed in jeopardy. And the robot forgot his curiosity about his Designer, and projected phantoms of false hope and monsters of desire. And darkness was projected as light.”
Richard Rose 1979
The Psychology of the Observer
Q. It’s my opinion that this is also what Jesus taught, and that the core of it would be self-forgiveness. I think we hang on to what we don’t need, not because we haven’t forgiven others, but mainly ourselves. Did Mr. Rose talk much about forgiveness?
Well, truthfully, I don’t recall ever hearing Mr. Rose speak about forgiveness. The reason may be surprising to many people: he did not believe in “sin”. He often cited the Biblical story about how far we should go back into a person’s life to find the cause of their illness, malady, or offensive behavior – seven generations? Consistent with his position that this is a pre-written stage-play, he did not blame people for what they did, although he often said that if someone broke into his house and tried to harm his family, he wasn’t above eliminating them. He also cited the story about Buddha, who told his followers not to harm a man who had struck him, saying something to the effect that he (Buddha) must have offended him in an earlier life; thus the justification for the man’s behavior in this life. Rose said “You’ve got to study yourself when you’re cold, so you can circumvent things when the heat is on.” He also firmly believed in the admonition “First know thyself.” as the primary directive.
Regarding what might be called “self-forgiveness”, his attitude was just pick yourself back up and keep moving. “Don’t let yourself wallow in self-pity,” he said. He agreed with Ouspensky on the destructive influence of negative emotions, including shame, remorse, and regret. Rose was always all about adding momentum to the wheel, or “building a Vector”. In the Albigen Papers he called it the Maximum Reversal Technique. He said “We should use that which uses us…use curiosity and desire to fuel the search.” We use the negative emotions of shame and regret to motivate ourselves to do better the next time we find ourselves in similar circumstances.
Q. Would the Un-manifested Mind be the Unconscious or Subconscious mind? If the scripts come from there, wouldn’t the scripts be more changeable when we become conscious of the unconsciousness that had previously driven us?
Here are a few paragraphs from the book “Psychology of the Observer”.
“The master plan is contained in the mind dimension, from which we and the physical universe emanate. The mind dimension is like a universal agreement of pre-incarnate man. It is the Universal Mind of Mary Baker Eddy, and the Oversoul of Paul Brunton. I prefer to call it the Manifesting or Manifested Mind.
The Manifested Mind emanates from the Un-manifested Mind. The Un-manifested Mind might be likened to the Logos, and the Absolute to the Parabrahm, from which the Logos and the Un-manifested Mind emanate. I do not imply that these comparisons are exactly synonymous – I am merely borrowing terms from Theosophy, because no other comparisons are available.
The Un-manifested Mind is like the cradle of the creation, this cradle being a transformer of an awareness even more powerful, but undifferentiated and more of a universal type of awareness. This latter parent vehicle of awareness I call Un-manifested Mind. And by Unmanifested I mean not witnessable except in the understanding of the phenomena which emanate from it. The major emanating phenomenon which we may experience is the Manifested Mind. It is not entirely unwitnessable. Mystics claim to know of it by entering it.
The Manifested Mind is that place where the idea or conception of the Un-Manifested mind is made flesh. So that all creatures with their complex biological structures and their even more complex mental structures, are Projections of the Manifested Mind.”
Richard Rose 1979
Psychology of the Observer
This is pretty heady stuff, but if you spend enough time in deep meditation it bears fruit. It is a long way off, or a long way in there, and of course mere intellectual agreement is not the same as the experience of which he speaks. Trying to answer your question more directly, it seems that the scripts might become more changeable, or might be witnessed as more changeable, but not by the “we” that we presently believe ourselves to be – if that makes any sense to you. “We” don’t become more conscious. “We” gradually disappear, and Awareness prevails. But you are onto the gist of it with the question, only it’s a difference of Quality, in a big way, I’d say.
“Selfless” asks a couple more questions
Q. Couple more questions if you don’t mind. I have been pondering whether enlightenment could be considered functional insanity? How did Mr. Rose deal with enlightenment in the scope of living in the illusory reality while knowing the Absolute?
It seems self needs attachments to function as a separate entity from the Absolute, whereas, the Self in the Absolute seeks no attachments because its nature as ineffable. The term sane brings to mind following preset conditions, by which former conditions set future conditions as standards of acceptable future behavior; and insane brings forth no principles of conditions, other than the condition of no-conditions, as a course of action of randomness personified as insanity.
It seems, for the self to survive it must have function, and for the Self to exist it must not function under any conditions, to be unconditional; which creates a perception of randomness, which in turn is perceived as insanity by the self. Hence, for the self to come in contact with Self, it must by its nature function at some level or not be self, and Self by its nature must be randomness without measure. To exist at the same time under the banner of “I”, the self and Self have to merge as functional randomness or possibility into probability. I almost lose my self on this question. But the question melts down to whether being enlightened is a between-ness of sane and insane. Functioning in a sane reality while knowing the truth beyond the false reality; that there are no real principles of order or conditions, only possibilities, at least until self latches onto it as a reality.
The second question, I’ll try to make it short! Can the Absolute exist without Duality? If it can, why doesn’t it? This might come down to a tree falling in the woods paradox, since “the Paradox permeates all things”. But, what if Duality is really the Absolute and what is referred to as the Absolute is really an illusion? That would be the true Irony of Enlightenment.
Ramana Maharshi stated it this way:
“The ‘I’ cast of the illusion of ‘I’ and yet remains as ‘I’. Such is the paradox of Self-realization. The realized do not see any contradiction in it.”
Yow! Could you run that by me again?? I’ve been asking myself what’s the use of pondering Enlightenment when we can’t even change a tire on our cars? You know what I mean? We get into these absolutely (pardon the pun) heady discussion of totally subjective abstract states, and end up patting ourselves on the back because we’re so darn smart. Not good, really, because it avoids the real task of looking at ourselves directly, which is what I’m trying to do right here right now.
Really, you’ve got to get one thing straight if you’re going to go anywhere in this business, and that’s the simple fact that you don’t exist. There is no self, like in your moniker “Selfless”, so to speak. The only thing that exists is capital “S” Self, wherein, in the final analysis, we will discover that we’re all ONE. But we can’t just agree. “You gotta go there”, Rose would say. “You’ve got to make the trip.”
So that being said, your rather lengthy question, which I take as more of an expounding of your wisdom, seems a moot point, at least to me at this time. The only true sanity comes when we discover WHO WE ARE. Everything else is a reflection, a shadow, a mere seeming. Bantering words is like playing ping-pong on the Titanic. There’s so little time and so much ground to cover, or rather, water. We must learn to swim, and learn fast.
The second question, again, is a non sequitur. There is no duality. It’s all in your mind, and you’re being fooled by the mirage, like the guy in the desert who sees palm trees, beautiful girls, and a swimming pool. Drop the vanity of words, and go within. There you will find the answers to questions you have yet to formulate, but which are begging to be answered.
Ramana Maharshi can say anything he wants, and I’m not going to ask why, or pretend to know why he said what he said.
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Q. Why wouldn’t the Un-manifested Mind be a projection? Don’t we project what we don’t know about ourselves onto something outward?
YES, you’re right, the Un-manifested Mind IS a projection…from the Absolute, as Rose writes in the Psychology of the Observer. And your example, of projecting qualities onto something or someone other than ourselves, is what we do. Yet we also project our entire world. A stimulus hits the mind and we react by projecting what we wish to see. Yet there must be some agreement somewhere, behind the scenes, since we all seem to see the same thing. We see an apple tree or a mountain, though some don’t see red or green. Rose recommended J.J. Van der Leeuw’s book “Conquest of Illusion” as good reading on this phenomenon.
Again, from Rose’s book Psychology of the Observer:
“The eyeball does not see. However, without the eyeball, the mind does not see either. Upon studying the process of sight we come to the conclusion that seeing comes about only when the eyeball, connecting nerves, readjusting brain-mind, and still another factor visualization interact simultaneously.”
“In other words, the senses inaccurately apprehend, so that the recipient mind translates the incoming data from the inadequate senses and then projects a picture back upon the source of the percept to suit the purpose of adaptation. This projection is called visualization. Visualization occurs with every perception at the time of perception.”
R. Rose 1979
Psychology of the Observer
To answer your second question, it’s necessary, if we want to really know ourselves, to examine our projections (our beliefs) more closely to determine their origins and causes. We kid ourselves about ourselves, without knowing it, or even wanting to know it, so we can continue to fulfill our desire-based beliefs about ourselves. What Rose is talking about here is on the larger, more subtle scale, of how we project the world we live in. It’s more pervasive than we think. We project EVERYTHING.
So what we’re doing here is studying the mind with the mind, in order to know ourselves. We are looking for our True Self, though we cannot go directly there, we must begin where we are, and validate each step, not by agreement, but by experience. We understand what a hammer is the first time we hit our thumb. We have to start with basics and avoid getting caught up in the intellectual realm, juggling fancy concepts as an intellectual vanity. Yet the paradox is that without the concept, we might not be able to describe that which we ultimately, hopefully, will someday witness…the ineffable nature of Enlightenment.
Q. Are there different levels of enlightenment or does it happen all at once?
Mr. Rose said that Ramana Maharshi’s little booklet [The Spiritual Teachings of Ramana Maharshi] was the best description he’d ever seen in print. Maharshi says there’s Kevala Nirvikalpa Samadhi, where the mind is immersed in the Absolute like a bucket tied to a rope is immersed in a well. It can be drawn out. Then there’s the maximum experience, Sahaja Nirvikalpa Samadhi, where the mind is totally lost in the Absolute, like a river that flowed into the ocean. It cannot be recovered. Cosmic Consciousness can be compared to Kevala Nirvikalpa Samadhi. Read Richard Bucke’s book “Cosmic Consciousness” for the best collection of accounts throughout history. Rose also talked about what he called the “Wow” experience, or Satori, which is what you get for example when you’ve spent months studying Algebra or Calculus, or some other system of symbols. All of a sudden, your head pops!, and “you’re there”, you understand. This is a “lesser amazement” but also a milepost on the Path. He cautioned his students not to settle for those lesser amazements but to keep on digging. “You can’t give up your egos. They will be taken from you, and the last one to go is your Spiritual ego.”
Q. After Mr. Rose became enlightened did he continue to study and seek? What is the point of life after enlightenment? Do you have to have an out of body experience to become enlightened?
Mr. Rose early on made a commitment to share anything he found, primarily because when he was searching he found charlatans, con-men, and other so-called “spiritual teachers” who either wanted sex or money. He said, “Legally, it’s a crime to produce rotten food, but not a crime to produce rotten spirituality.” Later in life he realized that perhaps this commitment was part of the catalyst for his Enlightenment, since it was part of the Threefold Path. He called it The Law of the Ladder, which states that you can only work with people on three rungs: your own rung, the rung above you, and the rung below you. If you reach too far down they will crucify you, and if you try to understand someone too far above your level you’ll just think they’re crazy. Also, you should never leave the rung you’re on without pulling someone up. When we help someone below us, someone reaches down to help us. He said, “If you’re not inspired, go out and inspire someone else.”
He did continue to read and research, but only for the purpose of amplifying his Vector, and for finding new language to communicate with others. It was amazing to spend time with him. As a man of 75 he could hold a room full of college students enthralled with his humor, intensity and vast knowledge of current systems, isms, and most of the current related spiritual writings and movements. He could “reach out and touch somebody” long before the expression became an advertising cliché.
Q. Do you have to have an out of body experience to become enlightened?
You have to die to become enlightened. Your ego has to die. Dying implies leaving this world behind, at least momentarily. There was an interesting account in an old Reader’s Digest magazine called “I Died at 10:52 AM”, written by a man who had a heart attack while driving in a car with his wife. He was revived in the hospital and had an interesting story to tell, similar to many stories in Life After Life, by Moody.
What I’ve noticed here is that we’ve become focused on what it’s like to be Enlightened, or what the experience is like and so on, which in a way is tangential to the goal…of knowing one’s self, finding the Answer to the greatest koan there is: Who am I? Rose wouldn’t talk that much about his experience at public lectures, other than to tell the story of how it came about. I don’t ever recall him talking about “what it’s like to be Enlightened”, other than to say things like “I live to think – I don’t know what other people live for.” But he often asked “What do you think it will do for you if I tell you about it? I could be full of wind, or it could be fiction.” He’d say. “You’ve got to find it for yourself.” That was his main message. “Keep looking under every rock.”
Some more questions from “Selfless”…
1. Is not the mind the only tool at our disposal, and through it trying to know the unknowable really just useless? Are we not trying to find enlightenment using a screwdriver to hammer down something we are not able to attach too?
Seems to be an excuse for not doing anything, or for doing something other than Searching. Enlightenment has nothing to do with screwdrivers, though hammers are often used by Zen Teachers to wake students up.
2. How can we be sure those who claim to experience it actually did, if we cannot experience it ourselves? How can we know that the enlightened one has really not found a better wisdom-mousetrap for the ego? Is not the belief in enlightenment based on the assumption that I exist to experience it. If I do not exist, then how can I know anything? If we are just One, then why do some know and others do not know?
Who said you cannot experience it for yourself? This is reminiscent of paragraph #1 where you excuse non-action. Regarding the veracity of teachers who claim to have made the Trip, Mr. Rose used certain yardsticks, one of which was money: If a teacher wanted more funds than what was needed to pay the electric in a meeting room, Rose refused to spend anymore time. He claimed that “the objective has become money and the Search for Truth is over.”
3. Have you experienced the same enlightenment as Mr. Rose or are you just reporting his experience? Have you attached yourself to his philosophy or mousetrap in hope of finding it?
This is a reasonable question to ask of a fellow who’s been a student of an Enlightened Teacher for over 3 decades. Answer: I am a witness, a gadfly, like St. John the Baptist in reverse, since Mr. Rose is already dead. I had a glimpse when I was young, meaning the door opened a bit. I know the stillness of Death, which puts all things into perspective. That’s been enough to carry me along to this point. My only remaining desire is to do justice to the efforts Mr. Rose made in my direction, to “pass it on” as he would say.
4. It’s like the state of enlightenment is jumping into the abyss. If someone is standing on the edge and telling you, “Yeah I jumped into the abyss and it is wonderful”, you have to ask the simple question, “Well, if that’s true, then what are you doing here on the edge with me?” Isn’t it all just pointing at the abyss?
You think you can just “jump” into Enlightenment like it’s a lake or a swimming pool? What really needs to happen is to jump into looking at yourself, small “s” self first cause that’s all you’ve got to work with right now. Anything else is conjecture and wishful thinking. I’m not sure what abyss you’re talking about, really. You exist as an isthmus, a piece of animated protoplasm that lies between the billion years before you were born, and the billion years after you die. Is that the abyss you’re talking about?
[Note, some friendly chit-chat with “selfless” was removed for brevity.]
Finally, I’d say you’ve got a good sense of humor about yourself, and that’s the first step in Zen, which is the most perfect psychoanalytical system, and the road to relative sanity, and ultimately, Absolute Sanity.
Q. Would you say that a good way to define Enlightenment, by the teachings of Rose, would be to discover or rediscover the truths around us? Would he have said that to become enlightened it is necessary to let go of preconceived notions and not to make assumptions, but instead, we should have a deeper experience of life?
Ah, boy, more definitions of Enlightenment. Well, yes, Mr. Rose would definitely say that we need to discover the small “t” relative truths, and more importantly, the capital “T” Absolute Truth, but the Truth is WITHIN us, and not around us. He argued that we must “tell the truth in all things relative, except don’t plead guilty.” If we encourage truthfulness in ourselves we build a vector (a force in a direction).
“Go within” was Mr. Rose’s constant mantra, though it’s difficult to do since our programming is outward from birth. And yes again, he would say that it’s definitely good to let go of preconceived notions, and not to make assumptions. That’s all part of Zen, to get beyond conceptual thinking. But, he would disagree with you about having a deeper experience of life. Becoming Enlightened is all about Death. In order to really understand life, one must die, to oneself and to the world.
Q. I have to ask again. What would be the point of enlightenment? If very few people are ever enlightened then you wouldn’t have anyone to share your experience with. If it doesn’t give a deeper experience of life, you find out you are an illusion and don’t exist, why go for it?
Well, that’s a good question, really. In the introduction to The Albigen Papers, Rose writes:
“The aim of this book is to approach reality. As for reality, I do not define it in the usual materialistic sense… And if we wish to know ourselves we should not be prepared to settle for a definition that only involves evident mechanical parts, such as arms, legs, senses, etc. And the structure of our thinking must not be weakened by sophistry, wishful thinking, fear, or fatigue.”
Enlightenment has no practical value, really. It only answers the question “Who is living?” or “Who is experiencing”. Rose said “Experience is a worthless and transient existence unless the Experiencer is known.” So it’s a matter of personal curiosity about origins and destiny. The much over-used word “esoteric” fits in well here.
“Selfless” again …
Q. Michael, you’ve had the experience of seeing it done. I, on the other hand, have only read about it in books. The abyss or well is a metaphor for enlightenment. My biggest fear was going all in and not coming back. In my thought, the experience of being means nothing, if it cannot be reflected upon.
I refer you to what Mr. Rose always said in reference to the finite mind piercing the Infinite. And that was, “We can become less finite, if only for a while, and in that action possibly come up with an Answer.” Certainly this is encouraging news for seekers on the Path.
Regarding your most recent post: once in response to an audience question/comment similar to yours, referring to fear of letting go, Rose said, “You’re afraid of losing your ego, which doesn’t exist. Let the coward die. You might be surprised at what you find.”
I offer that advice here to you, in the face of your fears. The small “s” self, or the ego, holds on dearly to life, as we know it. It’s not YOU that is afraid to let go, but your EGO. This is what Zen is all about, really. Trying like hell to get around that character that masquerades as our self, when in Reality it’s just a shadow composed of desires, hopes, fears, and whatnot. Lastly, not to be name dropping, but I think it was Christ who said something like “Blessed are those who have not seen and who believe…”!
What else better have you got to do with your time?
1. What part does sexuality play in enlightenment?
2. Is sexuality affected by enlightenment?
3. Can a homosexual become enlightened?
4. Does homosexuality keep a person from moving beyond duality?
Mr. Rose did not speak about sexuality in a public forum, but dealt with each person on an individual basis. However, he did recommend celibacy as one of the most dynamic tools a person could employ on the Spiritual Path
“Selfless” on the bucket and the rope
Q. I want to delve more into the well analogy. I see the well as the absolute, the bucket as enlightenment, and the rope as the teachings on spiritual enlightenment. The goal is to explore the well, but you’ve got to let go of your fear to attempt it. There are two ways to enter the well. One is to jump straight in without any fear of not returning (death). The other is finding a mechanism that allows you to go down and return back up; thus the rope and bucket routine (teachings on spiritual enlightenment).
The bucket represents enlightenment as a container of a container. You’ve got be willing to go into the darkness down in the well and in the process lose your self, and all sense of self, but still keep the container intact. Isn’t enlightenment allowing self to experience the absolute and still come back to live in the illusion?
The rope as a mechanism allows you to lower or raise yourself and still keep attached to the outer world outside the well. Its means to enable you to get there, to allow you the opportunity, to show you the way, but it cannot do it for you; you have to do the work. Isn’t the teaching of spiritual enlightenment the mechanism that self uses to get to the absolute, the journey begins, the opportunity becomes known, the path comes into focus, yet doesn’t take you there, you’ve got get there on your own?
What I was trying to convey with this statement was; the truth of being in the absolute is nothing, both figuratively and literally, unless self can give it meaning by showing it as something. This seems to be the biggest obstacle in being enlightened. How can one describe nothing as a being of nothing?
There, ego reinflated, prepared for stake or sharp stick. [reference to a prior humorous comment]
Wasn’t Ramana Maharshi really saying the same thing about cosmic consciousness? We can’t be the absolute without being the absolute. We can join the cosmic consciousness and dip into the absolute and get wetted by it, but not be it.
P.S. I wish I was as smart as I thought I was.
One student tells the story of a long, involved, sincere letter that he wrote to Mr. Rose, in which he outlined his spiritual path, his obstacles, his concerns, his fears, his progress, and his plans for the future. “I put everything I had into that letter, in hopes of getting some kind of positive feedback and advice.” He said. “I waited anxiously for a couple weeks, checking the mailbox every day for a reply from West Virginia.”
“Sure enough, come Saturday morning, there it was – an envelope from some out-of-business hardware store in Wheeling, with the return address crossed off and Mr. Rose’s address handwritten below, in that unmistakable script of his. I couldn’t wait to read what he said, so I tore it open on the spot. What do you think I found in there?”, he asked.
None of us had any idea. A letter, we supposed, and we waited for him to tell us about its contents. A letter from Mr. Rose was always a welcome event in the newly formed Kent (Ohio) Ashram, where five or six students lived full-time. We waited while Fred cleared his throat, ready to deliver the goods.
“All that was in the envelope” he said, “was a single sheet of toilet paper!”
That response was an example of Rose’s individualized, living Zen, in action.
Q. Selfless spoke of the “self” experiencing the Absolute. Isn’t it the other way around, the Absolute experiences being human and the Absolute experiences Absolute?
I offer this poem as a response to your question:
A Man Said
A man said to a dying friend,
In eternity our souls will blend.
But soon that man was dead,
And did dissolve to nothingness,
And was no more, and did not know
He was no more, because he was not.
And the noble memory of a finite man,
Hoping against Time and Oblivion
To greet a friend again, is in itself,
So nearly washed away.
R. Rose 1982
Q. Which means self will not experience Absolute. Self has to die to blend.
Yep. That’s it. That’s the whole of the Spiritual Search. The big Question is how? Rose used Zen because it was a direct attack on the mind, the perfect psychoanalytical system.
The path to Truth begins with the self. We cannot properly identify, isolate or analyze the self because it is the subject of which man knows least. Zen is an Eastern system which takes into account, that much but not all of the game is already fixed, and that it is a good idea to see things as they are rather than to try to change things which cannot be changed.
R. Rose, Carillon
Continued on page 4 …
Q. Is it “things” or “a thing” that is perceived as changing? Is the perception of change an illusion of our ego? Is time real or another construct of our ego? Hacking to the point…Is there one constant and the perception of change is created by our ego’s illusion of time, space, and movement? Could it be…The absolute does not change, yet we have the illusion of change manifested by our illusionary movement? What were Mr. Rose’s thoughts on rest and motion?
“Who shall not perish in the heavy seas of forgetfulness if knowledge is not….Though his convulsions and agony for life be mountainous, shall he not perish…?
Though the worlds scream from their vertiginous orbits, how can they cast themselves up or down while knowing is not….Though the stars roar in anguish at their distances, who shall know of their roaring?
How can the atom know of the sea….How shall the atom know of the universe…?
How shall the spaces know of their nothingness….How shall nothingness hear the agony of nature that cries out against it…?”
Three Books of the Absolute
Ultimately, Enlightenment has no practical value. It only answers the question “Who is living?” or “Who is experiencing”.
Q. If that’s the case then it may answer the question “Who am I?” but it doesn’t answer the (to me) REAL question. “Why am I?” or rather “What’s the point?”.
Even upon attaining Enlightenment there seems therefore to still be an absence of reason for being and that just doesn’t seem to me to be attainment of the “true” Absolute – if there are still question marks.
“If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything; it is open to anything. In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few.” – Suzuki-roshi
The Absolute has no questions. We have fallen into the trap of demanding that God prove himself in our terms, i.e.; meaning, directions, reasons, “points”, etc. Our vanity is immense, our understanding miniscule.
“How shall the spaces know of their nothingness…How shall nothingness hear the agony of nature that cries out against it?
Where, where is where…? Why, why is why? Where, o wise among wise, is When…?
In what drifting sand heaps are its footprints…in what continuum is etched its lightning rate like music etched on ice?
Who, who is who…? Can the sage, more the fool, say that which is being…and among beings, who are what? Is the spark an entity, or is it merely part of flame, and is flame only illusory heat…or does it live?
“…who shall know the circle that has no radius, and who shall know the point that is a line of infinity…?
Where is maya…If all is maya, who, knowing, sees this illusion? Is not his knowing also maya…?
In what pitiful hells are the wise…In what blackest abysses are the oblivious ignorant…?”
“…Hear the voice of shadows…Look about you into the invisible memories of the ether. Where are they?
Where are the beautiful…Where is their beauty washed by the years…where are the years drowned in the ocean of the Unknowing?”
The Three Books of the Absolute
Q. I think the point is to stop intellectualizing and just be. Why are we so afraid to know “nothingness”? In a state of “nothingness” we truly blend. The salt doll walks into the ocean. It loses its shape but returns to and blends with the beloved.
Yes, you’ve certainly hit the nail on the head, in regards to the value of intellectualizing. Maharshi’s metaphor of the salt doll is a vivid example of what happens as we move away from this illusory world and become immersed in Truth. As always, the problem is, how do we DO that??
Rose talked about it like this:
“The path to Truth, or Reality, or Essence, is very simple: It requires a Selfish man, an individualist not afraid of the annihilation of individualism, a fearless man not afraid of powers within him that are much greater than himself, and a man of suicidal relentlessness once his commitment is given.
All that is necessary to find the Truth is an unconditional commitments,–not putting a time upon the commitment nor a greater value on any other desires or fears. If a person sincerely makes a commitment he automatically becomes a vector in a sure direction.
But if we wish to see the commitment become an Absolute result in this lifetime, we must be conscious of our limited time, and of ways and means to expedite the realization. All energies must give priority to the vector. Every hour must be used in a way to expedite the success.
So that as soon as the general commitment is made, we should immediately commit our energies, which are generally used for anger or pleasure so that transmutation will bring Intuition.
The voice of Intuition will be our most valuable teacher. It will furnish all future planning for the campaign. But do not rest. Make violent efforts but do not disturb the sleepers.”
R. Rose, 1985
Direct Mind Experience
Q. Are you saying that acceptance of what is, is a blending with the Absolute?
Acceptance of what is, is the first step on the road to simple relative truth. “If you steal, you’re a thief,” Rose said. “You’ve got to start with the self.” I think the problem is, with the existing technology of the web, and so on, is that we forget that the finger pointing at the moon isn’t the moon. “Too many notes, sire, too many notes.” Too many words, and we’ve lost the import of that to which we refer. By definition, the Absolute is that which contains, and is, everything and nothing…all things. Yet we speak of it like we speak of a trip to the seashore.
Union with the Absolute, again, “…is the equivalent of losing the mind.” (R.Rose, Psychology of the Observer). If you’ve ever been around someone who has lost their mind, it’s quite an experience, let me assure you. And to lose your own mind, well, that’s something else entirely. Not to banter words would be in order. Rather we should be discussing how we, too, can “lose our minds”, and thus enter into the stillness that is the Absolute.
Three statements by “Selfless” with responses
1. Functional insanity equals enlightenment.
2. Death to conditions of the ego and life to the unconditional Eros.
3. Are thoughtless, mindless, and selfless the same thing?
#1: It would be a mistake to assume that all insanity is the same as Enlightenment. Real SANITY comes with complete knowledge of the SELF. (the capital “S” Self, the Real Self)
#2: Energy goes either up or down.
#3: Selfless at times seems to be mindless, and hence thoughtless.
Q. I have been following the interview, and subsequent questions quite avidly, and I feel compelled to say how much I am enjoying your talk. I wish I had a profound question to ask, but as for that I seem to have only silence to offer.
Regarding questions, Rose would say there’s only one profound question we can ask in our lifetimes, and that is “Who am I?”.
Q. If a person doesn’t attain enlightenment are they a failure? Can we live a happy healthy life without enlightenment?
Mr. Rose spoke of this, but I was unable to locate the quote just now. The gist of it is that if one has spent their life searching for Truth or Essence, and no Answer seems to be forthcoming, at least that life of searching is an Eternal Fact, in the Absolute.
Many people live happy healthy lives without enlightenment, but I suggest they have something other than happy deaths. Enlightenment alleviates that particular problem.
Q. This doesn’t look too promising, since very few people ever attain enlightenment. Why does this differ from Christianity, which says if you aren’t saved you go to hell?
Gurdjieff talked about different levels of man: instinctive, emotional, intellectual, philosophic (sly man), and a few more up to 7th level (Enlightened). But the first 4 are the important ones.
Christianity and other religions are based on belief, or faith. This is the province of level #3 Emotional man. There is nothing other than believing, though most religions have a small core of mystics, many of whom are jailed by their own leaders for not following the herd (St. John of the Cross for example).
Just believing in heaven or hell may get you through life, but there’s no guarantee after death that either of those places is real.
Zen, or the Albigen System, is a more scientific approach. The fact of the matter is, we are going to die. Our bodies are going to rot. (I spent 8 days watching Mr. Rose die not too long ago.) He said in a poem “Know that all men die, even Saviors.” So be it.
Another fact is that we may have regrets on our deathbed, but it will most likely be too late to do anything about them at that time. So it behooves us to become actively engaged in a search for definition, if we are philosophers (Gurdjieff’s man #4). If we are believers, we can pick a religion and go with that, and hope for the best. Enlightenment answers the questions about Life & Death before we die. Rose used to say “I’m trying to age a few young people.”
He never cared if only 6 or 8 people showed up for a meeting or a talk, because he figured they were “sent”. And furthermore, according to Richard Bucke, there are only a limited number of people who will actually read some of this stuff, and even fewer people who will act upon what they read. Action is the essence of the spiritual search.
Q. Have you attained enlightenment, Michael?
Yes. I received Transmission from Richard Rose during the Winter of 1981.
With appreciation to InterfaithForums.Com