Commentaries by Vince L.
THE ALBIGEN PAPERS provides a method of discernment for spiritual seekers. This fact alone makes it a rare and unique kind of book. During the past 40 years or so, there has been a vast proliferation of esoteric spiritual groups, each claiming to provide access to ultimate truth. The individual seeker may be confused by various claims, unaware of pitfalls, and uncertain of what particular method to employ in their spiritual path.
Richard Rose made a commitment to save the seeker precious time and money by writing this handbook, based upon his own personal spiritual quest and the problems he encountered while investigating various metaphysical groups. His quest culminated in an Enlightenment experience, beautifully expressed in the poem “The Three Books of the Absolute” at the end of the book.
There is a refreshingly frank “no holds barred” overview of the contemporary social scene, as Rose surveys societal illusions that keep potential seekers in the dark about their true nature. He discusses the competing claims and inadequacies of various esoteric and metaphysical groups, as well as other obstacles along the path.
The second part of the book contains practical advice towards achieving higher spiritual awareness, including discussions on the conservation of energy, the development of intuition, and “stopping the mind.”
As one who studied with Richard Rose, I can attest to the fact that this book reflects the directness, intensity, and the lack of patience for any kind “feel good” spirituality that were the hallmark of his teaching method. In THE ALBIGEN PAPERS, one gets a glimpse of this method as words are not minced criticizing groups offering “courses” in higher awareness for a fee, along with other idiosyncrasies which lead the seeker on a tangent fatal to spiritual realization.
However, it must be pointed out that in his dealings with students, as well as in this book, the often brutally frank and direct teaching method so characteristic of Zen masters was tempered with a deep compassion. Richard Rose’s main objective was to help seekers realize Enlightenment in their lifetime, and this book was written to expedite such an objective.
FIRST PAPER: “SOCIAL ILLUSIONS”
Richard Rose, in the first paper of THE ALBIGEN PAPERS entitled Social Illusions, states: “We are cowards, and that which we witness about us is a dynasty of fear in a playhouse of desire.” This single sentence, I believe, provides an apt characterization of the predicament faced by every serious spiritual seeker. Rose describes this predicament with a penetrating and devastatingly lucid frankness. The dynasty of fear consists, first, of the obvious, more overt structures of authority such as the political, religious, scientific, and professional. But there are also the less apparent and easily overlooked authority structures—those appealing to our vanity, such as fashion, entertainment, and taste, for example. These authority structures support our fragile egotism, which, in our ignorance, we are afraid of losing. For what then would be our purpose for living? What would become of our individuality?
Our individuality, it would seem, is tied to the collective mind, with its herd mentality. With some rare exceptions, there is the need to adhere to convention. Not to do so invariably leads to social ostracism. Say the wrong thing to your colleagues at work, and you won’t get promoted, or perhaps you’ll even get fired. Wear the wrong clothes, and you will lose friends or not be allowed to join the clique. Speaking unconventional opinions regarding matters of religion and politics may land you in jail, or land you on the gallows. Any attempt to break out of this system of authority, and its handmaiden of social convention, would seem hopeless. The system appears to be rigged and the odds stacked against those who want to step outside of it in order to understand its mechanisms. There appears to be no choice but to define our individuality through the collective.
The collective, in its turn, provides rewards when we adjust our behavior by submitting to its tenets. These rewards support and reinforce the ego by creating a world of pretense, a make-believe world of virtual reality. This virtual world is sustained through the manufacturing of various “needs” and “wants” in the individual. What comes about is the “playground of desire” Rose talks about. Of course, in a playground, games are played. There are roles assigned to every player of the game. A hierarchy is set up where there are leaders, and those who follow are given their assigned roles. Those at the top have their ego reinforced because they are in control. However, those not at the top, including those at the very bottom of the rung, also get ego-reinforcement because they somehow are allowed to share in the glory of the top dogs. Simply belonging to a particular social collective, holding the right opinions, wearing the right clothes, listening to the right music, eating the right food, or being told you are God will do the trick, keeping the individual happy and contented in his delusion.
Through the use of hypothetical example, by showing how authority structures and the world of pretense were created in history, Rose reveals the “darker side” of this scenario. From a “dull biological existence” in pre-historic times, man developed the game of “mutual back-scratching.” The aborigine in his vanity started a revolution when he adorned himself with a feather, and the game of make-believe started. The chief and the witch doctor formed a conspiracy. Different feather arrangements for created for the chief, his family, and the witch doctors. When the natives got tired of the game because they were given insignificant roles, the witch doctors discovered the gods, who told the natives to obey the chief. So began the system of social control by government and institutional religion. The game became more elaborate as one traveled further down the historical road, with bigger governments, more subtle theologies, use of developing sciences and technologies, a proliferation of professional titles, and crueler penalties for deviation. No doubt the actual historical development of these institutions was a bit more complicated. Nevertheless, Rose makes his point effectively, and his explanation provides a wealth of psychological insight.
In addition to describing the dark side of societal evolution, Rose examines the real motivations of the individual. He says “each man is a killer, thief, and a rapist” and “shows his teeth in a smile.” We put on poses, seeing ourselves as benign, loving, charming creatures full of good will. But in fact we use these poses to pursue our own selfish interests. The salesman peddles sincerity, the clergyman assumes an air of personal benevolence, the military general will appear to be a pillar of integrity, and so on. All of these poses are the result of the promptings of the ego. To those who would protest that society has evolved from the primitive stage, that civilization has advanced, that our condition has improved, and that people are basically good with the exception of a few bad apples, Rose gives a stern warning. The warning consists of this—your drives are just as primitive as your neighbors, even if you are charitable, have pious ideals, or put money in the church collection basket. Rose states why in two blunt sentences: “Our kindness is a mask, and our smile is not too much more meaningful than a similar gesture by an opossum or hyena. It means, stand still, and do not struggle while I bite you, or put the bite on you.” But because of our general cowardice as individuals, we muzzle our own bite and designate “protectors, prelates, and representatives” to do the biting for us.
The effects of this biting are explained in a section titled Inhuman Legality. For example, Rose says our schools train our children to be masochists in order for them to submit to social control. He cites the example of corporal punishment, then permissible in schools (the book was written almost 40 years ago). Since that time, Ritalin and other medications, used to treat the short attention spans of mostly male students, have replaced beating as the approved method to instill masochism in the young. As for the authority figures, Rose cites the cases of guilty judges, who, knowing the farce they play, and disgusted by their own personal hypocrisy as well as that of the entire legal system, play out their masochism in brothels. In light of this, he asks: “Is the great programmer, up there in the sky, a subtle sadist?” He further states that all of humanity is walking the treadmill of flagellation. Our only equality is the common denominator of misery and helplessness.
Rose tells us that we begin life with an eagerness to be deceived, and the deception continues as our lives progress. Children love to hear fairy tales and believe in Santa Claus, but as adults, the fairy tale game continues with myriad substitutes in more sophisticated garb. I can think of some ironic contemporary examples of adult deception. For instance, there are people receiving ego-reinforcement, and having their vanity assuaged, who claim that their particular lifestyle “preference” is the “non-conformist” choice. Consider “rebel” rock stars and the people who buy their brand of “non-conformity.” In truth, they are as entrenched in a collective mindset, and remote from true self-knowledge, as anyone following a more “conventional” lifestyle. Another contemporary example is the tattoo craze. These folks believe they are expressing their “individuality” by having tattoos on their skin, but in fact they are lost souls who don’t know themselves, and have no idea of how to begin to find their real self, much less whether they think it is possible. And then there are the well-educated sophisticates who eat only “health foods,” or see themselves as “socially conscious” environmentalists, but who are actually catering to an industry appealing to their vanity. In their own minds, they are the self-styled “elite” who are protecting the earth, and promoting good health, while contriving a virtuous and benevolent self-image. Yet they are every bit as much a part of the game of make-believe, and serve as its pawns, as anyone else.
The most insidious forms of deception involve those in matters of religion and spirituality. For these deal with issues related to our ultimate destiny. In primitive times, the witch doctor told the native that he shared a part of God. An afterlife was concocted, with its heavens and hells. Magic and ritual was the prerogative of the witch doctor, but the natives had a share in the glory through their participation in the ceremonies. Over the centuries, the methods of the witch doctors have been modified through reformations, but with the same result—social control. And regrettably, even modern psychology and transcendentalism, created because institutional religion worked against man’s enlightenment, has become, according to Rose “a vanity of a priestcraft tolerated by the herd-government.” Whether in primitive times, or in our “enlightened” age, humanity is told to “believe” without question. The instrument of the collective, embodying the herd-mentality and employing herd-rationalization, penalizes those who dissent. And here we reach the crux of the matter in Rose’s first paper on social illusions. I will let him speak in his own words from THE ALBIGEN PAPERS:
“Those of us who wish to stop and think about ultimate directions, are jostled by the herd, and repeatedly goaded by the exigencies of living. So that we wonder if it will ever be possible for other than a very few individuals to pause in the herd-stampede long enough to meditate. And among those who have been able to pause for a few hours, there is always present an insurmountable wall of illusion, greeting the searcher at every turn. And we must function in the herd, and from it take our sustenance, security and family survival. I think that nearly everyone who has tried to manipulate the Gordian knot of self-definition, has been aware of the near-impossibility of keeping the feet on two paths at once, while keeping the two paths separate at the same time.”
The two paths outlined by Rose consist of the world of “pseudo-reality” (the more contemporaneous term, which I have used here, is “virtual reality”) and the world of “ultimate reality.” These are our two choices, and each has its own set of problems for our spiritual search. Virtual “pseudo-reality” traps us a cobweb of materialism. I’ve provided some examples of this make-believe world in the above paragraphs. In addition, the world of pseudo-reality contains popular forms of mass thinking, now known by the term “political correctness.” Examples of these, described by Rose, include the “freedom syndrome,” and the “equality mania.” Less obvious are the confusing cobwebs we will encounter as we seek ultimate reality. Blind adherence to dogma and unquestioned acceptance of authority are examples, but additionally, there are other confusing cobwebs involving the semantics employed by serious seekers. The seeker must employ a relative language and its word-symbols, from an attempt by the relative mind, to explain Absolute Awareness. There are words, such as God, love, soul, self, spirit, truth, and now, after the popularity of eastern spiritualities, words such as nirvana, satori, enlightenment, kundalini, chakra, which are used glibly. In order to communicate with fellow seekers and help them along in their path, one must define such terms so as to avoid confusion.
This first paper does not outline a method for the spiritual search, but gives some hints of a proper approach. We must focus attention by thinking. There must be an attempt to be scientific and logical in our approach, though at some point we may realize we have to transcend logic. And there is no guarantee of reaching the Absolute, though the endeavor will make us more inwardly free of the various social illusions making our life robotic. That alone makes the endeavor worthwhile. The main theme to be remembered, says Rose, is that we shall approach Truth by retreating from untruth. No frontal assault on Truth is possible in a world of polarity, so we must ride the wild horns of the paradox.
Psychology and the Truth
SECOND PAPER: “PSYCHOLOGY AND THE TRUTH”
“The path to truth begins with the self.” So begins Richard Rose’s second paper. Some, especially those who spent years of schooling in order to be certified as experts, will say it is simplistic. But as one reads through this devastating overview of orthodox modern psychology, it will become apparent that the certified professionals, who, with their legal franchise comprise its exclusive priesthood, turn out to be the real over-simplifiers. For the approved methods and practices employed by contemporary psychologists deal only with the mechanics of the human robot, and not with those matters related to the robot’s origin.
The problem of man’s origin, his essence, and his real self, is a crucial one. Rose shows how woefully deficient modern psychology is in addressing these problems. Indeed, most psychologists ignore them, or even declare that attempting to seek their solution betrays a pathological mind. In contrast to the prevailing psychological methods, Rose boldly states that the only true psychologist is one who enters his own mind. This is the route to self-definition.
I wish to add a personal note here regarding more recent developments in the field of psychology. Richard Rose wrote this paper in the early 1970’s. It will be acknowledged that during this time, and in his later years, there were some notable exceptions to the rule that psychology dealt with body mechanics rather than origin or essence. The depth psychology of Carl Jung, Roberto Assagioli’s Psychosynthesis, and Arthur Deikman’s “Observing Self” come to mind. But their approaches were, and are, not in the dominant mainstream of modern psychology.
More recently, there has been a group of courageous psychoanalysts who have discovered the ancient meditative spiritual practices of the East. For example, Jon Kabat-Zinn, the author of Wherever You Go, There You Are, has studied meditation and yoga for several decades, and applies their methods, such as the Buddhist practice of mindfulness, for the purpose of reducing stress. In 2003, Jeffery. D. Safran edited a group of essays, published by Wisdom Publications, entitled Psychoanalysis and Buddhism. Several psychologists and psychoanalysts who are practitioners of Zen, Vipassana, and Tibetan Buddhism wrote the essays. These psychoanalysts are attempting to incorporate methods derived from their spiritual practices into mainstream psychoanalysis. This effort is to be lauded.
After reading these essays, I believe there are now some in the profession who are addressing the issues paramount to Rose, namely, the issues of defining the mind, ultimate self, and the essence of man. For example, some of essayists discussed such eastern concepts as no-mind and non-duality. Yet it must be noted that the profundity of their approaches derives from practices developed long ago by philosophers and transcendentalists.
While these psychoanalysts are sympathetic, and even personally committed, to defining the mind and the ultimate self, they are still dependent on the findings of realized mystics and sages, whose methods are ancient, non-scientific, and often non-traditional. More will be said later on how the dominant modern strain of psychology attempts to trump philosophers and transcendentalists with concept building. Regrettably, it remains that the findings of the ancient philosopher, transcendentalist, and the new breed of psychoanalyst influenced by eastern techniques and practices, continue to be rejected by the contemporary mainstream of psychology.
For the purposes of this commentary, I think it is fair to assume that the dominant forms of psychology today, as taught in academia and practiced on the professional level, continue to be Freudian, behaviorist, and cognitive, with some recent, new gimmicks such as the study of “evolutionary psychology” based on Darwinism. Their approaches attempt to be empirical and scientific, which can only remain on the level of the somatic, material, and mechanical. Anything transcendental, or suggestive of a state prior to thought, is rejected out of hand. Therefore, Richard Rose’s critique in this paper, written four decades ago, remains as valid today as it did then.
Our lives are unexamined, Rose points out. We do not know who we are, or where we came from. We accept things on faith, but we never question why we do so. This situation must change. Rose implores us to doubt, compare, analyze, criticize, question authority, and wean ourselves from conventionality, custom, and tradition. Further, he challenges those who believe they are thinking their own thoughts.
Perhaps there is an essence subtler than our thoughts, where forces and impressions work upon the nervous system. We assume we think with and inside our heads, but is this so? What of the claims of telepathy? Science is timid to the claims of occultists, who knew the existence of telepathy many centuries ago. The scientific authorities, in order to establish their monopoly of the craft, will invent their own set of fancy words, thereby impressing the student, who accepts them without question. As a result, we have a maze of scientific jargon, which, according to Rose, contributes to the spreading of illusion and confusion. In the face of all this, he asks, can exact definition ever be possible? Because of the lack of consistency, even psychiatrists land on each other’s couches.
The issue of free will versus determinism is an example of where authors on psychology have given various opinions regarding the attributes of the mind. Is the choice only between total fatalism and total libertarianism? On this issue, Rose suggests living the paradox. It would be foolish, he says, to believe we are free agents, but equally foolish to think we live in eternal shackles. Perhaps the best course of action may be to assume there is room for free will within a broader determinism. The seeker can study freedom and generate a will, thereby receiving “yard privileges” in life’s prison, while non-seekers remain in their cells. Another challenge by Rose: “It all comes back to this…do we really wish to find the Truth? And how desperately?” Our original desire for Truth may dissipate, but new findings generate new perspectives and create new desires.
For Rose, scientists (this would include psychologists and psychiatrists) are no closer than laymen in knowledge of the essence of thought. Scientific study of psychology involves somatic, stimulus-reaction patterns. The endeavor is strictly mechanistic and materialistic. As an example, Rose questions the theory of thought being synaptic. Even though this “science” of psychology studies the behavior of the individual, it has “…little to do with the exact knowledge about the essence of the psyche, the essence of man, the limits of the self, or the true origins of the behavior of the individual.”
Professional concept-builders will undermine rival concept-builders using their own stock of jargon. Philosophers and transcendentalists will be attacked by psychologists, who claim the findings of the former two are nothing more than various “complexes.” Yet, as Rose points out, there may be a temporary need for such complexes. Having owned a farm where various animals were raised, he provides an apt analogy: “The chicken may have a mental aberration, yet may produce a healthy egg.” Various complexes may be simply variations of the survival drive. Here we can see how Rose applies the paradox to all situations. Additionally, complexes can be sources of energy, which, if diverted, can aid our spiritual search.
Reviewing the applications of contemporary psychology, Rose notes that it is mostly behavioristic. It is a “pseudo-science” of manipulation. The purpose of behaviorism is to control the minds of men for utilitarian purposes. There are various “types” of psychology—for such things as salesmanship, war, or the therapeutic.
Variance exists between theoretical and utilitarian systems of psychology, but conflict also exists between the various fields of applied psychology. Professional psychologists, says Rose, are “pompous alienists” who, driven by a “trade-survival urge” will utter their convincing jargon in a court of law, even though they do not know, nor would they admit not knowing, what they talk about regarding sanity and insanity. They have created their own definition of normality and sanity. But they have not defined the self, or the mind, or the essence of thought, or intelligence. This is what Rose is warning us about—his main thrust in this paper. He makes clear he doesn’t want to discourage the study of the works of various psychologists, but only wants to “separate the gold from the dross” and thereby save the seeker precious years of effort.
We’re learning to drive our vehicular body, but still don’t know our inner motivations, according to Rose. There are “blueprints”—certain laws concerning the protoplasm. Action and reaction is based on the endorsement of the pleasure-sense and rejection of the pain-sense. Reason “will find it pleasant to observe the reaction that the system of Reactions with its Perception and Memory” can survive physical death. This can be turned into something spiritually beneficial even if we do not know the after-death state, or whether it exists.
Rose once again suggests riding the horns of the paradox. “We must not legislate that it is impossible to have a will.” The human robot was programmed with implants such as desire and curiosity. We should, says Rose, use this curiosity by expending our “energy-vector” towards pursuing “wisdom while living.” It is here that he introduces his “Law of the Vector” which will be expanded upon in a later paper. By reversing the vector, we can approach a type of mind that will survive death.
Rose makes some brief but poignant criticisms concerning the confusion brought about by the “authorities.” Psychologists, as the master word-builders who create guilt-complexes, will claim that the helpless man created his own libido, even though temptation comes from the outside. On the other hand, other authorities, under the banner of behavioristic psychology, claim the “mass man” is “always right” and anything he does is normal.
Perhaps the most significant, and damning, criticism by Rose addresses conventional psychology’s insistence on relying only upon scientific, materialistic criteria. He rejects the synaptic theory as being incomplete, even though he does not deny the merits of studying the relation among memories. What, however, should one make of such phenomena as ESP, prophecy, and the apparitions of saints, astral projection, and near-death experiences?
Rose cites the accounts of historical figures, such as Swedenborg, William Crookes, Eliphas Levi, and Aleister Crowley. In our contemporary times, there is the field of parapsychology. Researchers such as J.B. Rhine have studied aspects of psychology not accessible to the five senses. But as is the case with those contemporary psychoanalysts who employ eastern meditative techniques, Rhine’s research is clearly out of the mainstream. Clairvoyancy is considered aberrant. Rose’s assertion of forty years ago applies today, namely that for psychology as currently practiced “…phenomena that are not explainable by materialistic standards are non-existent.”
When one considers the rather considerable historical literature regarding mystical experience, and the reports of psychics, both of which describe phenomena not accessible to the senses, why is mainstream psychology so reticent upon sticking to a materialistic, scientific criteria? It would seem, intuitively, that a strictly scientific and materialistic criteria is actually a limitation. This is because, as Rose points out, the senses are imperfect, and some phenomena are not visible. We do not really know where memories are stored.
Unfortunately, though, psychology operates under Burke’s law, where complexity breeds experts at complexity. Both reason, which is projected through the consciousness, and intuition, which is without projection, needs to be employed. This is not what is happening in the field. Here is Rose’s verdict, in his own words:
“My quibble with modern psychology is that it not only poses with inquisitional authority, but also reneges on the basic job of at least approaching the mind. It tries to make of Psychology a materialistic and mechanistic science and in the ensuing efforts, abort the very meaning of psychology. It now investigates only protoplasmic and sensory reactions. The physical senses are part of the body which is visible while the mind and its projections are not. Of course, the modern psychologist gets around this by issuing an encyclical…’Either the mind is physical or it does not exist.’”
In this vein, Rose criticizes psychological works dealing with mental illness, but which do not define the mind. Of particular mention is A.P. Noyes and his book Modern Clinical Psychiatry. Noyes claims mind has to do with the function of the organism and environment. In other words, mind is something strictly biological. Rose vehemently disagrees with this judgment. Further, he deplores Noyes claim that the mystic’s “exaltations” are psychotic. Rose believes there are cases involving people who were cured of their so-called “insanity”—that they were aware of their affliction, but could not communicate it.
He thought the detached witness to their suffering was the mind and the final observer, though not the final mind. Noyes is held to be a prime example of a “biological mechanic” who makes sanity a matter of “public mandate. How, Rose asks, would he treat possession, mediumship, and telepathy? He warns: Beware of the over-simplifying methods of psychology. Psychiatrists are simply mechanics and “somatic electricians.”
Regarding the final observer, Rose says it “…is such that it presumes the observer to have neither need of mundane perception or memory to BE. It has a different perspective when the body is negated, or removed, in that it no longer particularizes, for one thing.” He compares our memories and personality to characters projected onto a movie screen. When we come out of the theater, there is the “chilly shock of the out-of-doors reality.”
Finally, in the section titled Romance and Terminal Cases, Rose explains that the sciences are interdependent, and consequently, the fallacy of one science will be rooted in the mistakes of another. For example, science postulates man as not only being the observer, but the doer. But Rose asks us to look at the looker. He cites the hypothetical case of the young romantic who believes himself responsible for his own abilities, and reminds himself of this by a “drama” featuring himself as an individual, or as a nation and race. He fancies himself as the conqueror, or a Romeo, or a saint.
The movie industry panders to these sentiments. Yet, as Rose points out “…death is hidden from the stage… What happens to the Galahad of a thousand jousts with the windmills when the bell tolls?” Death is awaiting all of us, and all of the cosmetics placed on the dead body at the funeral home cannot cover up the fact that we have played a game of make-believe.
We still want to escape this fact, but as an alternative, Rose encourages us to seek self-definition. “If the last burst of energy is not wasted on thoughts of escape, the mechanism might, by shutting off the disturbing environment, and with the automatic decrease of sensory impulses, bring about at least one chance in its lifetime to coordinate all circuits in the memory-bank and come up with a startling discovery.”
For the time being, Rose says, we should examine psychology with the assumption we can talk about it, and also assume we are the observers.