A Part of Thee
by Art Ticknor
This is material I used for a presentation at the October 2011 retreat of the Raleigh (NC) Self Inquiry Discussion Group. The theme for their third annual weekend retreat was "The Paradox of Spiritual Effort."
Richard Rose's poetry showed a side of his psychology that didn't manifest much in his daily life. It was a softer side, which is greatly evident in his poetry.1
My all-time favorite is "A Part of Thee," which begins with this couplet:
Though you should seek me, or, still never know Me, I am with thee....
It speaks directly to the heart of longing and reminds me of how he would usually dismiss any Q&A talk about love but how one time, at a university talk in Raleigh or Chapel Hill, he responded to a woman's question by saying, softly: "Love is the purpose of life, but we don't have time to go into it now."
"Though you should seek me, or, still never know Me, I am with thee...." Unless you've found Me, it doesn't matter whether you tell yourself you're seeking or not. (You are.) And it brings up the question of self. Life is all about self and other, and self and other are all about love. The opposite of self is other or not-self, not "no self." Self self self why talk about anything else? Self = THE PROBLEM. No self = NO PROBLEM???
1. The idea of "no self" is absurd!
Zac Brown Band sings a country western song called "Knee Deep" that ends with: When you lose yourself, you find the key to paradise, and begins with: Gonna put the world away for a minute. Let's do that ... let's put the world away for a minute and remember why we're here. [A minute of silence.]
According to my dictionary, "self" is a pronoun of the 3rd person and reflexive (i.e., referring back to the subject). Talk of 1st vs. 3rd person views reminds me of Douglas Harding and his heartfelt greeting: "my dear, dear friend...." It reflected the 1st-person view of "being busted wide open for love" as Douglas sometimes described it.
When we typically want the other person to be busted wide open for love, we are looking through the 3rd-person view. The 3rd-person view is symmetrical, meaning that it reflects a conviction that we're like what we see I'm a person like that person, having a head, looking out of two eyes, and so on. Oddly enough, the symmetrical view is the one that's eccentric, not centered. Knowing the self awakening to what we are at the center of our being is a triangulation over or behind the 1st and 3rd person views. It's beyond the subject-object split, beyond the reflexive view.
To say there's no self is absurd. We see physical evidence of selves, and although there's no proof that we aren't dreaming them or projecting them holographically, the fact that you and I can agree on the primacy of the evidence lends credit to it. I don't say that I am this body, but I say that I have this body [tapping my fist on my thigh]. And I definitely love this leg more than yours :-) On the other hand, let's remember that the eyes don't see the mind sees.
And there's overwhelming mental evidence. Our primary feeling is the sense of I-amness, of self-consciousness, of being a separate, aware subject of all that we experience. Thus we can testify to the unambiguous assumption of a mental self, although when we look in the mind for this mind-self, we can't witness a substantial entity. From the standpoint of the mind-body entity, the existence of a self is evident and painful. Nisargadatta Maharaj termed it the sting of the scorpion.
What about the view of the jnani, who's not identified with the body, vs. the ajnani's view? To say that there's no self [person, individual, separate being] is absurd from the standpoint of both the ajnani and the jnani. The jnani can testify that the mind-self he previously thought himself to be does not really exist, but that's very inexact use of language since exist comes from the Latin ex + sistere, to stand outside of and his body does stand outside of (and arguably inside of) what he is. A better way for the jnani to express the distinction would be to say that the self I used to believe I was isn't really Me.
Labeling it as our real self, or Real Self, is as good an implication as any, I think.
2. Look for that of you which is eternal
Years ago I questioned my friend Shawn N. when he said he'd found a new thread for self-inquiry by looking for a part of himself that was eternal. I'd responded with something along the line of: "Wouldn't that just be more duality finding another part?" A few days later a letter arrived from him in the mail. When I opened the envelope a wave of anger hit me. Reading his note, he said that confronting someone who had been depressed and then found a new line of inquiry was detrimental. In retrospect, I think he'd latched onto something that might be a crevice in the rock face for a climber, a thread to the Absolute and am now a little more circumspect, I hope, in my reactions.
A couple years before that exchange, during a TAT Foundation gathering when Richard Rose was still functioning, he said something to me that lodged firmly in my memory. During those years Richard's wife prepared food for the weekend gatherings and I took orders from the participants, sometimes going into the kitchen for hot items. I had gotten a bowl of soup and was crossing the meeting room to give it to the person who had ordered it when someone I had passed called my name. I heard Richard Rose say, "I'm right behind you," to prevent me from bumping my elbow and spilling the soup if I turned around suddenly. Then, not missing a beat, he added soto voce, "I'm always right behind you."
I'm always right behind you.... Those added words sent a chill and a thrill through my mind. Whereas the first statement was a pragmatic communication between two people, I felt the low-voiced addition to be coming from a much deeper place. Not from a place of transience, but from the place of eternality that I was looking for.
3. Go on the offensive
Louis L'Amour and Max Brand wrote compelling Western adventures, often about a Wild West town or ranchers who were being terrorized by a bunch of outlaws. Their heroes were usually solitary characters who either were just passing through or had been summoned by a friend, and they would end up protecting the hapless victims by going on the offensive against overwhelming odds taking the fight to the bad guys (terrorists).
The terrorists in the struggle to settle our soul are merely well-intentioned idiots the fear and desire "voices" designed to keep the body functioning. But they can impede our progress unless we go against the flow rather than with it. The flow is like a wind that blows our barque along its journey from life to death and our objective is to find what we are at the core of our being while still living.
How do we go against the flow? Admiral Jim Ellis cited an epigram expressed by a physics professor when he was a student in the Naval Academy: "If you want traction, you must first have friction."
It turns out there's plenty of friction going on most of the time among the various internal fear and desire voices demanding to be satisfied. The war of these "selves" that we serially identify with becomes more obvious the more we introspect or consciously watch the movements of the mind. The more we're able to watch with detachment, the less we may find ourselves seeking distraction or temporary fixes. We become more aware of the friction of our internal world and face it rather than run from it.
If you're a vegetarian, eat meat! An example of a specific way to go against the flow is to question and test our convictions. Suppose we're vegetarian based on a conviction that it's wrong to eat other animals. We can delve into our motivations, we can look for arguments that conflict with our beliefs, and we can try eating meat to observe our reactions. (Do you know where the word "vegetarian" comes from? According to professional complainer Andy Rooney, it's an Indian word for poor hunter :-)
Another, more aggressive way to go against the flow is to inhibit some of the drives that divert or sap our energy. This will bring the "terrorists" out in the open, where we can get a better feeling or view of their influence and determine whether it lines up with our primary objective. As former Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld concluded after the 9/11 terrorist attack: "It is not possible to defend against terrorists day and night, in every location, against every method of attack . We must go on the offensive."2
Seeking to know what we are (i.e., seeking Me) is something we feel our way toward. Thinkers and feelers approach it differently, but all progress comes by intuition.
Do you pray? Most prayer takes the form of asking for 2 + 2 to yield something other than 4 as one humorist quipped. The Christian mystic Teresa of Avila said that: "Prayer and comfortable living are incompatible." We can go on the offensive by:
The word self is an Old English suffixed form of the base *s(w)e-. Another interesting derivation is the word swami, from the Sanskrit base svah, "one's own master or lord." The real Lord is not a separate being but the Only Being.
Do you meditate? If so, why? Are you looking for peace by burying your head in the sand? There's plenty of peace in the marble orchard, as Richard Rose used to say. (Marble orchard, if you're not familiar with it, is a slang term for cemetery.) Instead of running away from conflict trying to escape from the angst of life look for that which will settle your soul.
The word meditation comes from the root med-, to take appropriate measure. The Latin predecessor meditari means to think about, consider. The synonym contemplate means to look at attentively and thoughtfully. Richard Rose defined meditation as "productive thinking." He wasn't promoting thinking as an end in itself but as a means to go beyond thought. The technique he recommended in his "Meditation Paper" and went into in greater detail in his Psychology of the Observer3 is one of turning the inner head away from irrelevant thoughts. (Not trying to substitute a more relevant thought.)
Meditation is really quite simple:
The mind-self feels what it wants (i.e., lacks) and is constructed to satisfy the want food, shelter, and so on, all the way up to absolute X (Love, Certainty, you name it). It watches / looks for what it wants often getting distracted by what appears, but eventually goaded again to find what it's looking for by turning away from interesting distractions. By remembering what you feel as your deep wanting & by noticing (consciously, effortfully as needed) what you're seeing, the mind more productively turns away from the "99 other things." Set aside some time each day to notice. First thing in the morning sends a message to the inner self. Conserve energy to aide the process of conscious noticing. Watch the mind calibrate the probability of relevance of what it's seeing & turn away from low-probability content. The child's heart-hunger is still accessible. Last thing at night: Review the day for action toward attainment; ask your dream maker for insight.
"How do we do it? We do it by carrying water on both shoulders, but by not allowing it to touch either shoulder. We stagger soberly between the blades of the gauntlet with recklessness and conviction, but we pick our way through the tulips with fear and trepidation, because the trap of the latter is sweet. We charge the gates of Heaven by urinating our way through Hell, all the while sitting for forty years on the banks of the Ganges, doing nothing. We sit on the banks of the Ganges, not from laziness, but from an anger at angriness, a fury against our inner fury for wasted activity. And we pull back a terrible arrow but never let it go. And by so holding, with the universe as our target, the universe is filled with terror at our threat ." ~ Richard Rose, Direct-Mind Experience4
I'd like to leave you with the final stanza of "A Part of Thee." The complete poem is available in the July 2005 issue in the "TAT Forum" archive.
Though you should seek me I am with thee still,
1. Richard Rose's poems are collected in Carillon : Poems, Essays, and Philosophy of Richard Rose
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