AFTER THE ABSOLUTE
Acknowledgments of greatness are generally postmortem. We seem to need a bit of "psychological distance" to see the full stature of some fellow human if that stature is out of the ordinary. The Roman church grants sainthood only well after-the-fact, usually, when the possibility of actual contact with said saint would take a bit of doing. This allows and encourages what Mircea Eliade spoke of as "mythological overlay," in which we tend to attribute greater-than-life characteristics to a deceased person. Thus Abraham Lincoln grew so strong posthumously that he reportedly had picked up a chicken house seven men couldn't lift and carried it ten miles, the weight and mileage increasing with the passing years. Eliade also points out, however, that such overlay doesn't take place with ordinary persons; only genuine heavy-weights are apt to bring on this historic process. So beneath the fanciful hyperbole with which we deck our dead heroes generally lies a personage powerful enough to attract such fancies. Over time such theatrics add to that very magnetic attraction for overlay, leading to inevitable distortion, but there is generally fire somewhere beneath all that tale-telling smoke.
In regard to someone still with us, however, we generally hear the equivalent of that famous query: "Can any good come out of Galilee" or, in the case of Richard Rose, "...the West Virginia mountains?" A reporter went to Oxford, Mississippi to gather impressions held by the local citizenry concerning their famous native son, Nobel laureate William Faulkner. "William who?" was the common rejoinder, "You mean Bill Faulkner? That old drunk?" Indeed, a prophet is not without honor....
In the case of Richard Rose, the subject of the following chapters, we find neither a Nobel Laureate nor an old drunk, but a West Virginia farmer who had, all evidence indicates, achieved the highest spiritual state, that spoken of in classical eastern terms as one with God. Even more heretical to our western ears is Rose's own comment of having "become God." Just as expressed in the old adage: "If you're so smart, why aren't you rich?" our first reaction to the report of a West Virginia farmer having become "one with the Absolute" would be "Why wasn't he on the cover of Time Magazine?" Or why hasn't anyone heard of him? Where was his following; who were his PR managers, business accountants; where were his bank accounts in Switzerland, his hideaways in the Bahamas or Fijis?
David Gold intends that we should, indeed, hear of Richard Rose. From early college days, Lawyer Gold was a student of Rose, and hung in there for decades, surviving Rose's disciplinary demands. Now, with help from his friend and fellow-student, Bart Marshall, Gold has given us an account of this most unordinary of farmers, as seen by one disciple. Gold worked fifteen years on this manuscript, and our debt to him is incalculable. For here is what will surely prove to be a timeless and classic spiritual treatise. Further, Gold's telling-of-this-tale proves one of the most gripping, intensely interesting, dramatic, and indeed romantically-heroic-mythic yet poignantly human accounts I have ever read. It would make a fantastic, if unbelievable film, and is a profoundly important document. This book throws light on the perennial what-and-why enigma of our species; reveals the makings of a "new cosmology", and surely gives glimpses into as-yet undeveloped potentials we humans hold within us. That all this is found in an utterly absorbing narrative proves the old adage that truth is stranger than fiction.
As the narrator of the following, David Gold is everyman, the archetypical human longing to transcend that destructive dark shadow that haunts our species. Gold speaks to me because he is speaking all for us, and his account is not just a superb narrative but the universal drama, with the evolution of a species the underlying plot.
Richard Rose's own history proves yet another adage, that the creative "spirit" that sparks things "bloweth where it listeth" and no man knows its comings and goings. Rose, while coming out of a Catholic background, went beyond any and all inherited frameworks and calls to question nearly every notion we have of religions in general and the making of a saint or man of God in particular. Surely the ironclad and rather mechanistic, inviolable lock-step stages of enlightenment espoused by popular spiritual philosophers is called to question by the likes of Rose. While an intensely self-disciplined man, with a steely self-control, Rose followed no set discipline in his search for self, and his actual moment of awakening to his true nature came out of the most unlikely of all possible trigger-events, and in the most unexpected way. (Which actually bears out the truth of what a will-o-the-wisp "spirit" is.)
Rose thunders at us the conventional theme that our first and greatest challenge as humans is to become aware of who we are. Equally he states both an eastern and "Gospel" truism that we are ourselves the very God we so avidly seek elsewhere. In his ceaseless attempt to get his students to "see" who he was and become likewise, Rose employed "non-ordinary" phenomena of the first order, the heady stuff of miracles, that food for the ego's power-hunger that feeds so much of our new-age literature (though possibly few souls, as found in the Gospels, nothing new here.) Becoming one with the Absolute, or going beyond one's fragmentations into a state of wholeness, leads to miraculous powers, it seems, but miraculous powers can be had without becoming one with the Absolute, and Rose's focus was on that unity-state, not miraculous gimmicks. I saw fakirs in India who could do things that defied every concept we have concerning reality; who could completely reverse the ordinary causal processes of our world, within their own straits. But these were "psychic phenomena" and the gulf between psychic and spiritual is wide. The spiritual can encompass and even engender the psychic, but not the other way around, just as the infinite contains the finite, but not vice-versa.
Rose referred to a state called between-ness which involves suspension of our ordinary split between thought, feeling, and action. That is, we average citizens think one thing, feel something else, and act differently to either most of our time, making us truly a house divided against itself . We all exemplify Freud's famous trio of id, ego and super-ego, eternally at war with each other. We "do that which we would not do and do not do that which we ought to do, and there is no health (or wholeness) in us"' as Paul and the Book of Common Prayer lament.
In a state of actual wholeness of being, an undivided house, we have dominion over our world, a condition not as yet explored by us humans. Dominating nature a la science-technology is vastly different than this state of dominion, and Rose's "between-ness" is the gateway to that dominion. There one can function "in the world" but free of its crippling and harsh judgments and restrictions.
The Institute of Heartmath speaks of "entrainment between heart and brain," an alignment of frequencies clearly detectable on EEG and ECG machinery. In this state of entrainment between head and heart all the body oscillators go into sync and one's entire being is a single, integrated frequency. This opens up whole neural areas of brain previously unused, and makes available heretofore unexplored domains of experience and action. Alignment between heart-frequency and brain frequency is a new expression of an old problem, how one's individual will and a universal or "global" will can be brought into alignment. What one does with such alignment isn't quite open to individual whim and fancy, either, but subject to a further state, a "higher frequency" which the fusion of head and heart brings about.
There is also a condition of mind called "unconflicted behavior," through which non-ordinary events can be brought about (and, in fact, disastrous influences set into motion). Unconflicted behavior is simply functioning without internal conflict--easier said than done, but not necessarily either unifying or benevolent. Id, ego, and superego can go into sync so that thought, feeling and action are an undivided whole and one can then invest every vestige of self in a venture without reserve; throw caution, logic, emotion, rafionality, to the wind and, holding only to one's intent, bring about a "suspension of the ontological rules." At that point almost anything is possible and a person can employ this effect in ordinary affairs, take on tremendous power in situations and determine outcomes to an indeterminable extent. There is, however, no divine universal ethic monitoring the results, the function works positively or negatively, since such niceties as good-bad, positive-negative are the very criteria set up by our ordinary logic and reasoning--and set aside in order to function as unconflicted behavior. (Nothing can so debilitate us as moral conflict.)
In Heartmath entrainment and Rose's "between-ness" the same single-eminded intent and suspension of self-concern is necessary, but without the kind of investment or concern over outcome that ordinarily drives us. One's intent isn't for a singular goal or event, but for an alignment of wills, which alignment then determines outcome along lines unavailable to, and not restricted by, reason and logic. The negative possibilities of unconflicted behavior can't manifest in such entrainment, since a unified system can't work against itself.
Unconditional commitment to some act, with yet a total indifference to either the content, course of action, or outcome of that action, is similar to the central theme of Carlos Castaneda's semi-mythic hero, don Juan; the state of "faith" central to Jesus; clearly stated by Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita, and implied in James P. Carse's Infinite Play. One must be in some form of this state to willfully bring about non-ordinary phenomena, but far more importantly, this is the very state necessary to "merge with the Infinite" or become "one with the Absolute" - whatever metaphor fits one's spiritual -esthetic. So between-ness offers unlimited potential in our ordinary world, or the chance to go completely "beyond this world."
Rose considered his state of oneness-with-the-Absolute Zen-like, but, as with Zen or any spiritual "way, " problems arise when the teacher prescribes for the student a path and goal by which they too might become one with the Absolute. For we then have a closed, finite, goal-oriented struggle, with boundaries and established end results in mind. And this is the heart of the perennial paradox in the perennial Philosophy. Following goal-oriented, bounded procedures sets up a win-loose game of seriousness, and deadly serious too, because "soul" is concerned. This seriousness inevitably produces a guilt-producing criteria. Infinite openness and play close at that point, boxed into a finite game, which game or pursuit the student is anxious to conclude so that he or she might be "realized" and get on with real life. And so life is spent trying to "get there" so one can really live -- missing in fact the present moment in which everything takes place. "Today is the day" involves a paradox found in most spiritual disciplines, since most disciplines are ways to get-there someday, maybe.
The issue is that a finite pursuit can't lead beyond its own boundaries. The finite can't lead to the infinite. They are separate logical sets, so to speak. The logic of one cannot suggest or lead to the other. Yet, stuck in this finite structure as we are, we have no other materials with which to work than our all-too-finite mind and understanding. There is a real, true paradox here, but one which, as George Jaidar would say, is a threshold to a truth beyond paradox. Classical logic claims, rightly, that we can't have "both category A and Not-A simultaneously." We can't entertain two different and mutually exclusive logical sets at the same time; an unyielding either-or "law of the excluded middle" separates them. But this excluded middle, as that between finite and infinite, is the "crack in the cosmic egg," the true between-ness through which we can slip to the freedom of the infinite game. We are, however, either "there" or not. There is no bridge between, and we can't think our way there since thought is a product of our very finite orientation.
Rose was caught on the horns of this ageless paradoxical dilemma, as every spiritual teacher has been: how to lead one to the unbounded infinite through finite process. In trying to help others catch his same light, as spiritual teachers seem impelled to do, Rose inevitably set up finite boundaries, disciplines and practices he hoped would break through the students perceptual-conceptual blocks. But such endgoaling, working for enlightenment, finitizes the infinite openness involved, and grounds the hapless student in a double-bind, for, as Jim Carse explains it, he who must play, can't play.
I know of no spiritual teacher who has solved this dilemma, even that giant of history, Jesus. Perhaps, though, the dilemma is more apparent than real. Perhaps the value of someone who has "broken through" and moved to a higher dimension of life is not their guidance so much as their presence, their beingness. "If I be lifted up I draw all humankind toward me" may be the point. The "model imperative" operates here. The great value of our great beings may not be "secrets of the masters" or prescriptions for sure-fire spiritual success, but simply their having actually lived among us, emblazoning their image on our collective consciousness and memory, stirring us from our sleep with glimpses of a new way of being.
I have never met a full "graduate" from any of the many spiritual systems I have come across or participated in since the participants in all those systems seemed eternally struggling to "achieve the goal." Should they do so, perhaps they would simply disappear, drop into anonymity, with only the charlatans hitting the media, waving their enlightenment degrees in the air and competing for the paying students. An eastern saying is that the true Sufi is always anonymous, never known, except by another true Sufi . Small wonder Richard Rose never made the big-fish time, not even in his own tiny West Virginla pond.
But I think extraordinary people such as Richard Rose pop up continually in history, in varying degrees of intensity, to act as target cells for the rest of us. The target cell phenomenon in found in brain growth, and is a mysterious and awesome event that may well be carried throughout the whole of our life process.
For the first four months or so of growth in our mother's womb, our brain grows as a simple homogenized "soup" of randomly mixed neurons, a chaos of unformed material. This growth hits a "critical mass" somewhere between the fourth and fifth month, at which point certain large and unique "target cells" appear. No one can explain the sudden manifestation of these strange and powerful cells, which immediately send out a signal which reads, in effect: "link up with me." This instantly galvanizes those billions of random cells into a frenzy of activity, throwing out axons and dendrites, pushing and shoving to make dendritic connection with that great cell that has appeared among them. The full signal seems to read more like: "link up with me or a cell that has linked up with me," for through some simple directive that chaotic soup of cells is lifted, with astonishing rapidity, into the most magnificent order known in the universe, a human brain, with its many uniquely different forms and structures functioning in perfect synchrony to build, through their trillions of linkages, the infinitely diverse universe of our experience.
Note that on linking up with the target cell the neuron doesn't become a target cell itself. It becomes a fully functional neuron, linked with its neighbors in powerful, productive and creative ways. An isolated neuron is powerless and rather worthless, but through this tranformative and unifying act it then lends itself to creating that fully functional miracle between our ears. Were all neurons to become target cells, an irremediable chaos would apparently result. (At least there would be no brain as we know it.) So the target cell appears to lift chaos into order, not to create other target cells.
In the same way, great beings just suddenly and inexplicably appear among us when some critical mass need demands them. And they don't necessarily have to rush off to do their stint of education in the Himalayas or wherever. When they appear they appear in full-bloom ready to go to work, and not to clone themselves but to bring about a linkage of separated, isolated, alienated and scared-lonely cells into fully human and functional souls, in turn moving to lift a social chaos into a new order.
I felt a great empathy with and respect for lawyer Gold, when he lamented that after all these years he felt he had still failed to realize the potential Rose saw in him. That is, he was still Dave Gold and not Richard Rose II. Most people on spiritual paths nurse a similar feeling of failure. But, though I have found no fully finished "graduates" of the various spiritual systems encountered, I have observed legions of people who have undergone tremendous personal growth, change, improvement in character and quality of life through their spiritual discipline or contact with a great being; people who live far richer and more rewarding lives, and contribute richly to their society and larger body of earth as a result. And the David Gold I met was a prime example, an exceptional human, mature, kind, intelligent, responsible, the kind of citizen our society and earth need so badly. May his number increase. And in him, I think, Richard Rose succeeded.
So the reader of the following is fortunate indeed, for even reading about Rose can plant a seed in our minds. And target-cell seeds can take root and those roots can split boulders, mountains, worlds, even closed minds and their cosmic eggs. Those seeds become priceless pearls that can lead us to new and fuller life. So the following work is a pearl, a pearl without price, dropped into this endless field of human folly to bring to order that individual finding it. May Rose's hints and cues into that pearl's whereabouts aid the reader in his search. For seek and we shall find, it is said -- the only game in town.
-- Joseph Chilton Pearce
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