The Way Home
The subject of this item is the meaning of, the why of,
Francis not Stefan that appears on the site’s index page. I write it for those of you who have known me here as Stefan and may be wondering. About a year ago, I had a dream instructing me, in effect, to replace Stefan with Francis. Of course, my first thought was about Francis and Clare of Assisi. He is the only Francis I have ever
known, and I have admired the two of them (and loved the town of Assisi) since, well, forever. But eventually I came to thinking that it is about something different, something about my spiritual journey. We’ll see. In any case, until a couple of months ago, I ignored the dream. I mean, I thought about it, but did nothing. Finally, recently, I figured it was time to take the dream seriously, so I changed every appearance on The Zoo Fence of
Francis. What does it mean? Dunno. Why did I do this now and not before? Dunno. But at least now you know as much about it as I do.
The past few days, I have been working on the jname.html and jandj.html TZF pages (desktop and mobile), so I apologize to anyone who has experienced difficulty opening them. On the jandj pages, I added a note about Pope Gregory I’s decision that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute. Here that is. See also here. I presume the Pope considered the woman at Luke 7:37ff to be Mary Magdalene. Yes, that woman is described as a sinner but not as a prostitute. After all, let’s face it, most of us are sinners, maybe even the pontiff, butthat does not make all of us prostitutes. I guess my point is, even if the Magdalene was a prostitute, Jesus did not consider it worthy of mention; why did Gregory? I hope his answer would be that his intention was to assure women and men who are driven to prostitute themselves that they too are loved by the Teacher every bit as freely and generously as everyone else. My favorite picture of Mary Magdalene is the one painted in words by Kahlil Gibran here.
August 30, 2023
The past few days, I have been making some changes to the site’s home page, mostly shifting stuff around, removing existing bits, adding new ones. Specifically, I have replaced the
Silence your thoughts piece that has been on the site’s home page for many years with this one. I mention that here because some visitors have expressed affection for the original (one of you told me you placed it on your home page), affection which I share. It is still on TZF’s home page, just down a bit here. Another move of a favorite is now here.
July 30, 2023
At the request of a long time friend of The Zoo Fence, I have reinstalled an original second page of Editor’s Desktop “just for curiousity’s sake.” It dates back to 1998. I am not adding it to the “Go directly to” list on TZF’s index page, but I will leave this entry at the top of this page indefinitely, so anyone who comes here will learn of it. Scanning it quickly, I notice that, over the years, I have moved bits of it here and there on TZF. Also, some of the links on it are to TZF pages that no longer exist, and so generate the Oops! page. Just ignore those. Anyway, here it is.
August 21, 2022
As some regular visitors to TZF have observed, I am making increasingly fewer “Additions, Deletions, and Alterations” to The Zoo Fence. (In fact, I have removed that feature from TZF altogether.) One of the reasons for this, of course, is age. I am eighty-plus, and not getting any younger. I have been working on The Zoo Fence almost daily, certainly weekly, since 1996, the year of the first issue. In those days, TZF was published in hard copy, “printed” (actually, copied on a Xerox or Xerox-like copier) at a shop in Hancock, Maine. That was a couple of decades ago. Since then, Nancy and I have said pretty much all we know how to say, by which I mean, as all seekers will undoubtedly understand, there have been and there continue to be, ideas, concepts, experiences, we are unable to put into words. All the rest is here.
One of the most affected features is “Here’s A Thought” which was first suggested by a regular visitor in the early days of TZF’s presence on the web … probably while it was on a server at America OnLine or GeoCities. As I recall, he suggested we include a feature offering inspired or, at least, inspiring, quotations; he thought it should be changed daily. I liked the idea, but settled on changing it weekly … and it has been. But no more. There was a lot of good stuff there over the years, and so I am compiling as many of the quotations as I have records of, and putting them together on the website as a simple list. The first “edition” of that effort is posted as hat_archive.html. I will add to the list from time to time until I have included there as much as I can recover.
January 14, 2020 & May 11, 2021
I have restored TZF's front page to its original design. By doing so, I do not mean to suggest that the world – the political world – has returned to normal; far from it. But it seems, or at least I am hopeful, that the “division of powers” designed into the US Constitution by our brilliant Founding Fathers are serving their purpose in keeping us and the Republic safe from the worst instincts of those who seem intent on proving themselves to be the worst of us notwithstanding the opportunity they have to prove themselves better than that.
May 6, 2017
Over the years, Nancy and I have met with a few true Gurus (and read many more), and almost without exception, they insist on “No politics!” Let’s face it, politics is a divisive, perhaps the most divisive, subject, and so clearly it is to be avoided by spiritual seekers who are trying to rid themselves of the separative perspective “I am me, and not you” and its countless entangling implications which define and inform what we take to be our selves. So, from the outset of TZF, the rule has been “No politics!”
So why now the revised index page that clearly is political in content and intent? To that question the Teacher would respond “Because, Stefan, you're an idiot; well meaning, perhaps, but nonetheless an idiot,” and I could not deny it. My (measly) excuse is “I’m human.” For many in the United States, including me, and for many in the world (please click here), the election of Donald Trump is disturbing at least, terrifying at worst. And so I succumbed to my (worst) instincts, and decided to have TZF take some minimal note of it. But, perhaps in hope of fooling the Teacher (yeah, right!), I have limited display of the new page to a few seconds.
Why the phrase “We The People”? At the Daily Beast’s website, I read an article calling for a name for the movement that Trump’s election has generated. The article suggests several but acknowledges that none has the necessary oomph. After reading the article, it occurred to me that a good name would be “We The People!” It is simple, inclusive, to the point, quintessentially American, and, for me at least, it’s got oomph.
February 4, 2017
This month — in the wake of November’s election — I have revisited the blog I started in 2004. Like a lot of other Americans (and others!), I am hoping that this man will, once the dust has settled, succumb to the better angels of his nature. But, just in case, heeding the lesson of Niemöller’s experience, I will use the blog to speak from time to time, if only to get stuff off my chest. (All the while, of course, my own better angels are reminding me of the teachiing of Nisargadatta, among others: Find out who you are in Truth, and then see if this issue signifies.)
The blog’s URL is http://theophyle.blogspot.com.
The server and format are provided by Google. I am not as fond of the design and function of the feature now as I was twelve (!) years ago when I signed up for it, but for now it is fine.
December 15, 2016
A long time ago, we had a DVD video about J. Krishnamurti, his life and his teachings. At one point in the film, the narrator relates the story of a visit to K, as he was known, by an Indian holy man or sadhu. Following a discussion between the two, the fellow departed, apparently satisfied. But, not long after, the man returned, in agitation and distress, his earlier composure gone. He expressed his discomfort at length and in detail.
When he was done, K responded gently, softly, simply, “See what your mind is doing to you.”
The man’s composure returned, his agitation and distress gone.
He thanked K, saying he would not need to bother him again: what he had just heard was enough, and would serve him thenceforth.
Nancy and I have never forgotten that story. Over the years, we have repeated K’s instruction to ourselves, to one another, and to others.
See what your mind is doing to you. It’s one of the half dozen or so most powerful expressions of lively and living spiritual teaching I have come across.
November 27, 2016
After the Brexit vote in the United Kingdom, there appeared safety pins on shirts and blouses and elsewhere indicating support for and solidarity with those who felt marginalized and threatened by the vote, specifically, but not only, various immigrant groups. I do not know where the safety pin image evolved in this context, but I suppose it is intended to indicate to any who see it, “You are safe here!”.
Over the last couple of days, the safety pin image has been appearing in the United States, again on clothing but also throughout social media, as an indication to all those who feel threatened by the election of Donald Trump — his narcissistic personality, his disrespect for diversity, his feral regard towards women, and so much more. Specifically, I suppose those most fearful are African Americans, Hispanics, Muslims, LGBT, and, again, women, but also probably recent immigrants generally. We should all include ourselves among those numbers, for a threat to any one of them is a threat to every one of us. Indeed, on various reliable newspapers' websites, I have seen reports of threats being made by Trump supporters against members of those groups and others, threats made in the name of Donald Trump.
For whatever it may be worth, I have written a couple of people who I expect might have access to the Trump world, asking them to urge Donald Trump himself to speak out forcefully against those kinds of activities and to denounce their perpetrators. Hopefully, others are doing the same. (Update November 24: As far as I know, Donald Trump has not yet spoken out with force and conviction about the violence against diversity which he encouraged as a candidate and which continues in his name here and there across the nation, particularly in schools against children. When asked about this by Lesley Stahl during an interview on the CBS television program 60 Minutes, Donald Trump did take a few seconds to turn to the camera, and mutter “Stop it”.)
I am grateful to Shutterstock for the royalty free images of safety pins that I have posted here and on a few other pages of TZF.
November 12, 2016
Update: As I consider, in the context of the preceding paragraphs, the implications of America celebrating its Thanksgiving Day just a few days after the election, I am unavoidably reminded of Martin Niemöller’s immortal lines repeated here.
November 24, 2016
In a vivid dream one night three weeks ago, I received a postcard urging me to develop a mobile version of The Zoo Fence website for visitors using smartphones and other mobile devices instead of desktop or laptop computers, which is, of course, what the website has been designed for. The dream was sufficiently “real” to convince me to act, and so, over the last three weeks, I have translated a chunk of the website’s material for use by mobile devices. To date, there are selections from Consider This!, Letters, The Gazebo, A Sacred Riddle, Stories, and Definitions, with more to come. To be sure, it is, and likely will remain, an abbreviated version of The Zoo Fence, for I doubt that the entire TZF website will ever be, ever could be (at least by me), made mobile-accessible.
I have tested the readied pages on an Android smartphone and on an iPod, and they all open properly, although the two operating systems generate slightly different displays. The mobile-intended pages can also, of course, be opened by a laptop or desktop computer, but on those devices, the pages will not look “right”.
We have received a promotional e-mail message from the publisher of Conversations with God by Neale Donald Walsch, announcing the author’s new title, God’s Message to the World: You’ve Got Me All Wrong.
In the publisher’s words, this “could be one of the most important books ever published”.
Sample chapters are available free-to-read on the internet at www.godsmessagetotheworld.info/.
November 10, 2014
Our friend, Steven Callahan, has written us that his book “Capsized” is now in a second printing. In Steveís words, “ĎCapsizedí chronicles four menís 119-day drift aboard a flipped, half-flooded boat, spending most of their time crammed into the space of a double bed with 20” of headroom. To me, the book is many things Ė a story of redemption and discovery of what is important in life, the discovery of love; a tale of true friendship; and a yarn with a surprising amount of humor. It chronicles the longest survival voyage in cold waters of which I am aware. It demonstrates the ultimate safety of multihulled boats. At base, it focuses on how even very different people must learn to rely upon and support one another to survive and create a functional society, despite their weaknesses. It reveals how everyone possesses strengths and desirable qualities, but also how even strengths can become liabilities at times while at the same time, peopleís weaknesses can emerge as strengths or things we actually need.”
Steven is perhaps most known to the public for his best-selling book Adrift, which chronicles his own seventy-six day ordeal at sea after losing his boat in a storm. Since then, he has been an active writer, speaker, designer, and adviser on nautical matters. Most recently, Steven worked with noted director Ang Lee in the production of the Oscar-winning film, Life of Pi.
We are delighted by this good news about the book “Capsized”. In our view, it is an excellent story, highly readable, and thoroughly suited for film. We urge those who are capable of making it happen, to do so. Although Nancy and I rarely make it to movie theaters, we enjoy watching movies on DVD, and we look forward to having “Capsized” on our television screen soon! In the meantime, we wish Steven and his wife, TZFís long-time friend Kathy Massimini (co-author of “Talking with Children about Loss”), continued success and joy in this venture and in all their work, inner and outer.
For more about Steven Callahan,
personally and professionally, please visit his website
“Steven Callahan and Associates” at http://www.stevencallahan.net
November 16, 2013
locked TZFís Open Forum. As we have aged, it
seems to me the time has come to make a few changes.
Shutting down Open Forum is one of those. However, there
is a lot of good stuff there, some of which may be of
interest to future TZF visitors. So, rather than remove
the forum, I have decided simply to lock it down; that
is, convert it to “read only” mode.
June 27, 2010
In the past few weeks, two long-time, good friends of The Zoo Fence have died. One is the writer of the article Fully Involved, and the other is author of Christ: Yes, Religion: No, as well as a frequent contributor to TZFís Open Forum where he was known by the username W4TVQ, and to TZFís Open Space ó not to mention his contributions at other spiritual and theological forums across the internet.
In the words of another equally good friend of The Zoo Fence, their time has come, ours is coming.
TZF, and we personally, will miss
both of these good friends. We wish them wisdom,
strength, endurance, enthusiasm, and love, endless love,
as they continue their onward journeys.
June 17, 2010
The shift was necessary because the group that provides the software for TZFís Open Forum (phpBB.com) announced that future updates of their software would require a version of PHP which was not available on the server where TZF had been. That server had a PlusMail platform, which I had gotten quite used to over the years. Anyway, that is why we had to move to a different server. The new server has a cPanel platform, which I am now learning to use. So far, I like it.
While transferring Open Forumís files between the two servers, I encountered a wrinkle generated by the fact that the servers had different versions of MySQL, the software which manages the boardís database. It got a little complicated (by which I mean, over my head), but eventually, with the help of a couple of internet support forums, I deciphered the problem, found a solution, and it worked! However, in that process, some Open Forum passwords were jumbled. So, if you find you are unable to log into Open Forum, write me, and I will fix it.
Thank you for your patience
June 2, 2010
the next ten days or so, I will be moving all the files
that comprise The Zoo Fence website from one server to
another at our host OLM.net. To some extent, this
activity will be in the background, invisible to the
websiteís visitors. But at some point, there will be a
period during which TZF, including Open Forum, will be
inaccessible. Browsers directed to TZF will yield an
error message like “website not found”. It will be so
only for a short time. I thank you all for your
understanding and patience.
May 12, 2010
I am done. I have come to the end of The Zoo Fence. Since January 1996, when The Zoo Fence was first published in its original hard-copy form, I ó and Nancy too (she is sometimes known on TZF as Anna) ó have put into this website in one form or another everything I know about the spiritual process. Whatever I know, whatever I have to share, I have freely shared here.
I know that The Zoo Fence has been useful to some, for they have told me so. I am grateful for that. In the hope that it will continue to be of use to some others, The Zoo Fence will remain in place more or less indefinitely.
I will continue to post new items to Hereís A Thought and probably the Gazebo, and there are Theophyle cartoons in my head which I want to draw and eventually post. In addition, there are a couple of items in train which I will post in the next days or weeks. And there may be additional contributions from others to Open Space, which I will post. But that is likely to be the extent of it.
TZFís Open Forum will remain in place, and
I will participate there
irregularly from time to time as I am doing now.
However, The Sand Box feature will no longer enjoy the
protected status it has had. That is, The Sand Box will
be as open to view as is everything else on Open Forum,
indeed as is everything else on The Zoo Fence.
Therefore, any Open Forum members who have contributed
material to The Sand Box which they would prefer not be
publicly viewable, should log in and delete those
December 29, 2009
frequent visitors to The Zoo Fence are aware, the page Selections, Sources & References provides source
information for the many selections and
quotations and other stuff that appear scattered here
and there throughout the website. Originally, I had
included on that page, also known as que.html,
source information for prayers that appear in The Quiet Room, but because the
source page has now grown so large (as the website
itself has grown), I have moved the source information
for The Quiet Room material to a separate source page,
called quepray.html. This
event will be of interest only to those who, like me,
have an interest in html-stuff.
December 6, 2009
This week's selection at TZFís Hereís A Thought is from Bart Ehrmanís Lost Christianities, which I have been reading along with his Misquoting Jesus (Issa); both books are about the New Testament and particularly the Gospels. Their focus is not theology as such, but the evolution of early Christian and pre-Christian sects, the conflicts and controversies among and between them, and how that influenced the development of New Testament canon: who wrote the books, how many books were there to start with, why were some books included and others rejected, and so on, as well as detailed consideration of the additions, deletions, alterations, and errors in the texts, some significant, some minor, some intentional, some accidental.
These are scholarly books in the sense that Ehrman is a scholar, and his work is well researched with lots of end notes. But they are an easy read, and offer a fascinating look into the evolution of Christian scripture. I enthusiastically recommend them to all seekers.
As expected, other books have been written attacking Ehrmanís work and in “defense” of the New Testament. I have not read them, but I have read reviews of them, from which I gather that they are essentially apologetic (in the theological sense of the word, meaning that instead of addressing Ehrmanís points, they pretty much simply reassure the faithful that there is nothing to worry about).
For my part, I do not doubt for a moment that the canon we have today has gone through numerous manipulations along its way to us. Even among current spiritual groups whose teachers or gurus are still alive, Anna and I have seen manipulation of the leaderís and the groupís history, in one case even rewriting a living teacherís autobiography to remove mention of events in his life which now seem inappropriate to a man of his presumed stature.
For me, none of Ehrmanís conclusions detracts from the power of the Gospels. On the contrary, Ehrmanís books have made the Gospels more, not less, meaningful. In my mind now, they fit far more comfortably and sensibly with the scriptures of the worldís other great spiritual traditions.
I had hoped to post at TZFís Ampers&nd a
lengthy excerpt from Ehrmanís “Lost Christianities”.
Unfortunately, the publisher denied me copyright
permission to do so.
July 5, 2009
Memorial Day in the United States. It is a day intended
to celebrate those who are serving and who have served
in the nationís armed forces, particularly those who
have lost their lives in that service. This year I am
moved to include TZF in that celebration by changing the
websiteís home page to the Brother Theophyle cartoon on
war. It will be so for only today. Those of you who use
the regular index.html page as your portal to TZF need
make no changes. Tomorrow we will be back to normal.
May 25, 2009
This morning, I added to TZFís My Space feature a
link to LibForAll Foundation. I like the
sounds of it a lot, and I recommend a visit. I learned
of the website by reading Nicholas Kristofís column in
the New York Times about a recent conference at Notre Dame
University described as “an international conference …
on the latest scholarship about the Qurían”. It is a
good column, and an interesting conference.
April 23, 2009
I am delighted to report that
we have received and granted a request from a Vietnamese
student at a university in Korea for copyright
permission to translate The Cranberry Tales into
Vietnamese for posting on his blog. From his messages to
us, he seems an enthusiastic fellow who is up to the
considerable challenge he has undertaken for himself. I
will report his progress here as we learn of it, and
again when the task is completed. In the meantime, we
wish him well in his effort to teach the Vietnamese
language to Pilikia, Cantachiaro, Tancredi, and their
March 22, 2009
This morning, I restored TZFís
regular home page. Barack Obama is now in office, doing
his thing, hopefully restoring some balance to this
country (and the world), and TZF can return to normal,
whatever precisely that is. We continue to wish him
well. The special home page I posted last month (about
which, see the item immediately below this) is still at
the site, but the only link to it is this one.
February 1 , 2009
From the beginning, I have purposely kept politics out of The Zoo Fence. The Google blog is the closest I have come to commenting publicly about politics, and even there I have written little and rarely. I ran a special home page after the events of September 11, 2001, because they seemed to me to call for notice. That page remained in place for about a month. Likewise, the inauguration of Barack Obama as President of the United States is so immense an event from almost every imaginable angle and perspective that it demands attention. Accordingly, today I posted a special home page. It will remain in place for a while, by which I mean I donít know just now how long I will leave it up. Once opened, the page displays for a few seconds, and then jumps to TZFís familiar home page (which is temporarily renamed indexa.html).This automatic jump works in most browsers, but not all; so Iíve included a clickable link, too.
I just wanted to explain what and
why Iím up to ó particularly for our long-time, frequent
January 18, 2009
As some of you will have noticed, The Zoo Fence website (zoofence.com and zoofence.com), including TZFís Open Forum (and our email), was down and inaccessible much of yesterday and today. Our domain host, OLM, experienced technical problems which took longer than expected to resolve. I regret the inconvenience, and thank you for your patience. Unfortunately, computers, like lots of other stuff, do these kinds of things from time to time.
In the process of their work, the OLM technicians needed to restore TZF to their server using their backup files, which were made a couple of days ago. As it happens, during that interim, I had uploaded some new or revised files which were not reflected in OLMís backup package. Fortunately, I keep copies of all TZF files, and so today I have been able to replace those few files (notably the new Theophyle cartoon) which OLM inadvertently lost.
Now, the affirmation “I keep copies of all TZF files” in the preceding paragraph does not include Open Forum material. What that means is that if any new Open Forum members signed on, or if any existing members worked on their profile (like, changed their password), or if anyone made any new posts in the last day or so, that information may have been lost, and, if so, will need to be redone.
I guess this event is just one more example of why God created the eraser!
Other than this cyber wrinkle, we
are looking forward to, and we expect, an exciting and
uplifting new year ahead, and we wish the very same for
all our friends and visitors.
January 4, 2009
There are some extraordinary
photographs of the recent volcanic eruption in Chile at http://
The first ten or so, of the accompanying electrical
storm, are breathtaking.
May 8, 2008
As frequent TZFers know, for
some years TZFís bookstore
pages have been “in association with Amazon.com”,
meaning that we are able to sell books, videos, and
other stuff through Amazon.com directly on The Zoo
Fence, and Amazon pays us a small percentage for each
sale so transacted … for which we are grateful,
particularly to those TZFers who regularly make the
extra effort to purchase from Amazon through TZF! Now,
Amazon has initiated a new feature, called “aStore”
(presumably for “Amazon Store”, a play on eStore?),
which seems to me to be essentially the same service
writ large. All the same, I have installed the page, and
weíll see how it plays. To jump directly to this new
feautre, please click here.
April 30, 2008
The folks at phpBB.com who provide
the software that drives TZFís Open
Forum have issued an update to it which I
installed yesterday and this morning. Happily, it went
without incident. The instructions that accompany their
update and upgrade packages are normally clear and easy
to follow. However, for me at least, the process is a
little scary because the scripting language of the
software is PHP,
about which I am not as fluent as I am in straight HTML,
for example. It can get particulalry iffy where I need
to insert or reinsert my own tweaks to their scripts,
which their updates sometimes undo, like the TZF logo
(the kestrel & “Open Forum”) on each page. Like the
rest of life, it is a learning process! As the kids say,
we should be good to go now, but please let me know if
you encounter any unexpected difficulties or obstacles
at Open Forum.Thanks.
April 11, 2008
authorís request, I have re-posted Fully Involved at TZFís Integral Health after having
removed it about a year ago, also at her request. The
author is a long-time friend of The Zoo Fence. The piece
is the story of her sonís leukemia, and how she and her
husband dealt with the emotional, physical, and
insitutional rigors associated with the disease. Thus,
it is a motherís story, and compelling as such, but it
is all the more so because she happens to be a
Registered Nurse (RN), and therefore brings to the
telling all the knowledge and experience which that
March 1, 2008
morning, I posted a new submission to TZFís Open Space. It is an article
entitled The Awakening, and
is apparently also the first chapter of a book by the
author. I do not know any more about the author or the
experience reported in the article than appears on that
page. However, I can say that it is a beautiful story
nicely told. I am glad to have it on TZF.
February 22, 2008
The folks at phpBB.com have issued a new version of the software
TZFís Open Forum. I am in the process of
installing it now. I expect that it will be up and ready
to go tomorrow or the next day. I will post updates
here. Thanks for your patience.
December 18, 2007
Update December 19 morning: The new software is installed and, on first glance, it seems to be working fine. Accordingly, I expect to re-open the forum Thursday (tomorrow) or Friday.
Update December 19 evening: The new version of phpBB software appears to be performing correctly. It looks different, and it has some new features, but it seems okay, so I am opening it. All the usernames and threads appear to have transferred successfully. However, if you have any trouble logging in, or anything that does not seem to work properly, please let me know.
Also, please note that the internet address (URL) has changed. It is now https://www.zoofence.com/openforum
Today I have added a link at
TZFís home page to a blog I started some time ago.
Originally, I chose not to link
it to The Zoo Fence because the focus of TZF from the
beginning has intentionally been “spiritual” Ė that is,
matters related to the spiritual quest, path, and growth
process Ė and the blog, except for a couple of items Ė
is not about that; it is more about “the world”. But all
the while, I have been fully aware that one cannot
successfully separate the two, as indeed is the
underlying premise of what we call The Simple Way. So, today I
have overruled my earlier decision, and linked the two
together in fact as they always have been in substance.
November 24, 2006
visitors to TZF have observed, Open Forum has been
inaccessible for several months. The reason, as a few
have guessed, has been the nearly epidemic increase in
spammers who “visit” the forum with no intention other
than to leave behind links to advertising sites and
various other unpleasant websites, or simply to use up
server space for no reason other than to complicate the
lives of others. It seems pretty clear that TZF
generally nor Open Forum itself is being specifically
targeted. Rather, these rascals write computer programs
which then search the internet for any forums using phpBB
software (as we do), and then there leave behind
their footprints … or worse. Mostly, it is just a
nuisance, but it got to be a sufficiently serious
nuisance (a couple of days, there were hundreds of such
“visits”), that I decided to turn off the forum for a
while. Eventually, I will turn it back on, but I have
not yet decided just when.
September 21, 2006
The Zoo Fence, including Open
Forum, will probably be inaccessible this coming Friday,
September 5, from about midnight to about four in the
morning on Saturday, September 6, while OLM, our
domain service provider, performs maintenance on their
equipment. We apologize to TZF visitors who may be
inconvenienced by this interruption.
August 29, 2005
A few days ago, we received a
message from an artist named Mindy Sommers
introducing us to her work. This morning, I posted one
of her pieces, titled “Forgiveness” Ė which is part of a
deck of tarot-like cards she created Ė to TZFís page “Forgive You, Forgive Me” at
To see the work, scroll past the article, toward the
bottom of the page. Once you have enjoyed that piece, I
urge you to visit the artistís website,
where you will find one of the most beautiful assortment
of colors I have ever seen on the internet. My
compliments to the artist who mixed them, but equally to
whoever created the graphics from her artwork and
designed the website itself.
July 27, 2005
The website originally sent to us by this artist seems no longer to exist. Here is another featuring her and her work that I found today.
May 29, 2014
For years, I posted on TZFís Technical Stuff page reports of virus and
other alerts that we received
from Symantec or McAfee, or that I came across
elsewhere. I stopped doing that because there are just
too many of them, and most people seem now to have
anti-virus software installed, and, perhaps most
importantly, Symantec offers a free alert service that
updates itself automatically, which I have installed on
the Technical Stuff page. To see it, please click here.
I will continue to use that page to alert or inform
TZFers of other tech stuff that may be of special
June 13, 2005
On Monday, May 30, from about
12:00 AM to about 5:00 AM Central Daylight Time which is
5:00 AM to 10:00 AM Coordinated Universal Time (also
called Universal Coordinated Time, Universal Time, and
Greenwhich Mean Time), all of the features on The Zoo
Fence website, including Open Forum, will be
inaccessible while our hosting service performs
maintenance on their servers and related equipment. We
regret this inconvenience, and thank you for your
understanding and patience.
May 28, 2005
Today, I instituted a new
feature on The Zoo Fence called “Miscellanea”
to which I moved three items of mine that had been at
TZFís Open Space. They
never really belonged there, because Open Space is
specifically intended for the work or contributions of
TZFís visitors. The problem was, I didnít know where
else to put them, so thatís where they ended up. Now
they have a place. Miscellanea,
as the name is intended to suggest, is where Iíll put
anything that doesnít seem to fit exactly anywhere else
December 5, 2004
Today, we altered TZFís
sub-title from “A Commentary on The Spiritual Life” to
“A Commentary on Life & Living”. The former still
appears on some of the siteís graphics, and will do so
until I get around to effecting all the changes; but at
TZFís two home pages (index and index3), where visitors are
first introduced to us, the new sub-title is in place.
We took this action because the distinction “spiritual”
in the expression “a spiritual life” no longer seems to
us to be appropriate. That is, the phrase “a spiritual
life” suggests that there is such a thing as a life that
is not spiritual, a non-spiritual life, and increasingly
that does not make sense. As we explain at The Simple Way, if God is
Infinite, then the entirety is Godly … or spiritual. And
if thatís the case, then “a spiritual life” is a
redundancy. At the same time, I moved the lines “Silence
your thoughts …” from index.html to consdr13.html, where
is The Simple Way (scroll
down the page, just below the painting of the lion). For
now, it seems more appropriate there.
November 27, 2004
Update, six months or so later: I have undone that change. I am unable to explain precisely why, except that the earlier way seems to me to ring better. Maybe it has something to do with feng shui!
I have revised TZFís Definitions pages. The new
set of pages is arranged alphabetically, so that the first page contains words
that begin with the letters A, B, or C, the second page has words that
begin with the letters D, E, or F, and so on. The definitions index page remains
the same, except instead of a single (very long) column
of words, there are now two (fairly long) columns. Those
of you who are familiar with HTML will understand that
this process required editing a LOT of hyperlinks across
the entire website. I am (reasonably) confident I got
them all, and that wherever a word on the site is
hyperlinked to its definition on the definitions pages,
the link works.
July 18, 2004
we have been receiving so much spam, sometimes as many
as fifty spam messages a day, that I have reluctantly
decided to take some action that may stem the tide. It
is my understanding that spammers send robots across the
internet harvesting anything they find that has the
symbol @ in it, which they take to be an email address
and then send spam messages to it. The obvious solution
is to remove our email address from the site. However, I
do not want to do that because many visitors seem to
enjoy writing us, and we certainly enjoy hearing from
you. Therefore, today I am trying an alternative, which
I hope will help. Wherever it appears on this site, I
have altered our email address to a format which I hope
the robots will not be able to use, as in the entry
immediately above this one. I know that this change will
inconvenience (and undoubtedly confuse) some TZF
visitors, and I apologize for that; but I hope you will
understand the need for it.
May 18, 2004
visitor to TZF has just published a new book about
spirituality and celibacy (about which please see here) in which she
has reproduced our own article, Do
We Have To Give Up Sex?. Curiously (or perhaps
not), that article has drawn as much attention as
anything else on TZF (among the other most remarked upon
items are The Quiet Room, Annaís Page, the article about forgiveness, Bo Lozoffís piece
at Ampers&nd, and our
definitions pages, where particularly namaste, ahimsa, religion, and seeker). Frequent
visitors may remember that a little over a year ago, the
TAT Forum, which is dedicated to the teaching of Richard Rose, reproduced the
same article on their site, at http://www.tatfoundation.org/
forum2003-01.htm (towards the bottom of that page).
April 20, 2004
morning, I inadvertently deleted an incoming email
message sent to our link exchange address suggesting a
link exchange. The message started out by referring to
TZF as a “content rich site” (for which observation we
are very grateful!). I apologize to whoever sent that
message, and if you are reading this item, please resend
the message. This is the second or third time that we
know of when we have inadvertently deleted “real”
messages. Clearly, the spam/scam/virus/worm epidemic has
made us counterproductively cautious. We are going to
have to do some re-thinking.
September 9, 2003
Today, we were able to recover the deleted message. So, problem solved.
September 20, 2003
Today, at index.html I replaced “The very
One” with “Your very Self”. For those interested, the
history here is: When those seven lines first came to
me, many years ago, the sixth line was “Your very Self”.
Then, when we added the septet to the front door of The
Zoo Fence, the general consensus here was that we should
replace that line with “The very One” which seemed to us
more likely to be compatible with the many paths and
various traditions TZF visitors travel. Now, we are
moved to restore the
original, and so I have done so. I hope thatís okay with
May 10, 2003
has written us about a new CD of spiritually uplifting
music that he has published. It is called “May The
Spirit Be With You”. On his site at http://www.songsofpeace.homestead.com
there is a link to several song clips which we enjoyed,
and I am sure others will too.
March 15, 2003
Annaís Page has been restored. I
apologize for any inconvenience its
absence may have caused, and I thank you for your
March 10, 2003
I am working
on Annaís Page, and so for
the next few days her stuff will not be accessible. I
apologize for the inconvenience.
February 12, 2003
we received a message from a TZF visitor who has set up
a site to collect stories and reports of miracles and
other nice news. Itís a happy venture, and we wish it
well. The URL is http://www.tobeablessing.com.
January 9, 2003
decided to close down TZFís Open Forum. There are
numerous serious, mature “spiritual” forums on the
internet, more nearly every day, including many that are
dedicated to some of the specific topics that have been
addressed on Open Forum. Thus, it seems to me that our
forum does not fill a real need. To help bridge whatever
gap this decision may create for other TZFers, I have
added a “Groups & Forums” category to TZFís Links page where I will list
some that come to our attention. The Zoo Fence itself
will remain unchanged. I thank all of you who have
participated at Open Forum, and, as always, wish you
bountiful success and joy along your own continuing
October 3, 2002
This item just goes on and on … I originally posted the second paragraph below (which begins “The story continues” Ė if you have not yet read it, you may wish to do so before continuing) on August 20. Now, October 4, I have received a message from TZFís cherished friend, Wayne Manning of Unity Auburn, who stumbled across the same attribution error way back in 1995. He writes me that someone had given a colleague of his “a framed copy of the quote, attributed to Mandela. It was taken from the very reputable and usually reliable UTNE magazine. Still, it just didnít ring quite true, so I did an exhaustive search on his inaugural speeches (there were four, as I recall, in different cities, with no two exactly alike) and the quote appeared in none of them. We then contacted UTNE who, as I remember, printed a small retraction on page umpty-ump in a subsequent edition. Marianne has since made numerous public statements owning the quote, in print and verbally, but the Ďfolk mythí continues”.
story continues … On October 28, 2000, I posted to TZFís
“Hereís A Thought” a few lines that I came
across on a website dedicated to Nelson Mandela. There,
they had been cited as being from his 1994 inaugural
speech, and so I attributed them
accordingly. Then, in June, 2001, a TZF visitor wrote to
inform us that although the lines in question were
spoken by Mandela, they originally appeared in Marianne Williamsonís
book, A Return to Love, which was first
published in 1992, two years before Mandela was said to
have spoken the words. Thus, I concluded that Mandela
was quoting Williamson, and I changed the attribution
accordingly. Now, today, I have received a message from
another TZF visitor correcting me once again by
informing me that those lines never were spoken by
Nelson Mandela! And, in fact, a search of the speech
itself at the African National Congressís own
site, confirms that. This visitor writes, “A
search of all of Mandelaís archived speeches at the ANC
site does not find the quotation, either. Iíve been
searching elsewhere, too, but have found no solid
evidence that these words ever crossed his lips. I have
come across a couple of people who inquired directly to
the ANC, and were told that he never spoke them”. I am
very grateful to this second visitor for re-setting us
straight! For me personally, the lesson of this episode
is to check carefully before attributing words to
anyone! I apologize for this confusion. On the other
hand, had I caught the error back in October 2000 before
posting the lines, I would not have enjoyed the exchange
of email messages with the two TZF visitors which the
error generated, and that would have been a loss.
August 20, 2002
Once again, we extend our heartfelt thanks
to those of you who use TZFís Bookstore page as your access to Amazon.com. As you may know, we
receive a small commission from Amazon on all purchases
(books or anything else Amazon sells) made by TZF
visitors who go to Amazonís site from our bookstore. What
you may not know is how much we appreciate it. Of
course, we have no way of knowing who you are (Amazon
reports only the sales & commissions to us, not who
made them), but whoever you are, we know you are
generous and thoughtful, and we thank you for that, very
August 2, 2002
Last June, I added the feature “Eco-Consciousness” to The Zoo
Fence. The page is coming along nicely, if it is still
working on its personality. Today, I added an “eco-links” page to it,
providing links to other sites whose focus also is on
the planet, its inhabitants, environment, prognosis, and
so on, broadly defined.
November 25, 2001
TZFís long-time friend Art Hale has written
a new book, “Christ, Yes: Religion, No”. In it, Art
makes a nice distinction between Jesus (Issa) as a “preeminent
teacher, way-shower and spiritual guide” and “the
sectarian chauvinism of the 30,000-plus Christian
denominations”. This issue is not unique to
Christianity, of course, and the book will be of
interest to a seeker on any path. For more, please visit http://www.iuniverse.com where the book is
available online or in hard copy.
November 2, 2001
A TZFer wrote us about this NASA site -
Check it out for some eye-popping graphics … like “Saturn at night”. Wow! Thanks for
sharing the URL.
April 23, 2001
Please check out this site suggested to us by TZFís ISP
Administrator. Itís a view of the planet at night
from space … pitch black except for electric lights!
What a view. To get the full affect, some evening after
dark, browse to it with MS Internet Explorer, then press
F11 (Full Screen). Then, turn off your room lights. Iíve
put a link to it on TZFís Thisenthat page, under “Science”.
April 13, 2001
I recently came across a wonderfully
powerful poem by Maya Angelou written in celebration of
the fiftieth anniversary of the United Nations. It is “A
Brave and Startling Truth”. I had hoped to post it at
but unfortunately we have been denied copyright
permission to do so. Still, I heartily recommend your
reading it at any of the numerous sites across the web
where it does appear (here is one such).
April 5, 2001
morning, as I was putting together the “Hereís A Thought” item for
the week, I was suddenly, unexpectedly, and irresistibly
moved from within to retire the
candle that had been at TZFís front door since
September 11, and restore the siteís original first page. So, I did. Thus, I
made the change for no logical, topical, or rational
reason, but just because somehow it was clear to me that
it was time to do it. In the weeks since the candle has
been in place, a number of TZFers have commented on it,
and I thought youíd like to know why it has been
October 29, 2001
Today, I posted to TZFís Integral Health a
piece written by a good friend of The Zoo Fence, whose
son, and therefore whose family, has been dealing with
leukemia in all its ramifications since 1986. Theirs is
a moving story, but it is also a powerful reminder to us
all that we err grievously when, in illness, we look to
our doctors, nurses, and other technicians to do it all
for us. That is, just as we need their help, so too do
they need ours, and in this motherís words, the best way
we can help is to become fully involved. We extend our
thanks to her and her family for sharing this part of
their life with The Zoo Fence, and we wish them joy and
peace and health.
August 22, 2001
Today I posted to TZFís EcoConsciousness page a poem called
“The Power of Toads”. The poet is
Pattiann Rogers, whom I first heard of a few weeks ago
while listening to a radio program on which she was
featured. Other than her publisherís website (Milkweed
Editions at http://www.milkweed.org),
the only site I could find dedicated to her work is http://www.mindspring.com/~pattiann_rogers/.
I donít know whether thatís her own page or a tribute
posted by a fan. In any case, I really like the work. It
is clean and clear and refreshing. I am delighted to
have “The Power of Toads” on The Zoo Fence.
July 24, 2001
TZFís in the Big Apple …
virtually. Some days ago, we received an email message
from Beth Vishnevsky, a columnist for the Greenwich Village Gazette. She asked
about reproducing Bo Lozoffís “Simple Living, Simple Joy” which we
have at TZFís Ampers&nd.
Well, weíre pleased to report that (1) Beth quotes Boís
article in her column this week and (2) she mentions The
Zoo Fence as the site where she first came across it.
Back in prehistoric times, one of our favorite
television programs, set in New York City, used to open
(or was it close?) with the line, “there are ten million
stories in the naked city”. Well, if so, TZFís now a
small part of one of them!
June 28, 2001
A few days ago, we watched an
excellent PBS television program produced by Bill Moyers
about the environment, called Earth
on Edge. I heartily recommend it. The planetís
health, and what we are doing about it, is frequently in
the news, but too often more argumentatively than
informatively. For obvious reasons, the subject
generates a lot of noise on both sides accusations,
denials, defenses, and so on. This treatment by Moyers
seems to me to avoid posturing. It is, simply, about
what it’s about, and it is more than just a little
scary. Afterward, talking about it amongst ourselves, we
decided to add to TZF a new page called Eco-Consciousness.
Weíre not sure what form it will take, but for now itís
there, and weíll see whatís next.
June 24, 2001
Yesterday, on public radio
(PRI), there was a program about the relationship
between sacred music and sacred spaces. A fellow being
interviewed mentioned visiting somewhere in South
America where he heard pygmies performing their sacred
music outside, in the rain forest. To that, the
interviewer opined, “I guess pygmies donít have sacred
spaces”. I presume she was referring to cathedrals,
temples, and the like. Nonetheless, the fellow
responded, “Oh, yes, they do. The rain forest is their
sacred space. They consider it sacred because God
created it”. Very nice.
March 27, 2001
Today, I moved the “flags over
TZF” feature to its own
page. Regular visitors will remember that
initially I had been posting those here; but this page
began to get a little crowded. I love posting new flags
to that feature, so I am very grateful to visitors who
sign in at TZFís Guest
Register, and let us know what country theyíre
March 27, 2001
As discussed on this page,
this morning I removed TZFís Frequent Visitorís page. As
I explained, the combination of faster computer
processors, video cards, and internet connections seems
to have pretty much rendered the graphics-free access
March 27, 2001
Today, we visited a Unitarian-Universalist
Church in Ellsworth, Maine. At the front of
the meeting room, next to the podium, on a low
bookshelf, there is a set of books that sets the tone of
the space very nicely. Among the titles are: The Origin
of The Species (Charles Darwin); Science and Religion;
The Philosophy of Humanism; A Chosen Faith; World Bible;
Holy Bible; The Qurían; The Tanakh; Apocrypha & New
Testament; Black Elk Speaks; Native American Wisdom;
Lost Goodness of Early Greece; The African Religions;
Dhammapada; Rig Veda; Lao Tzu; Confucianism.
March 25, 2001
TZF has just learned that last
month Jack Schwarz of Aletheia died at his home in California. Along our
path, there have been a half dozen or so things (people,
books, encounters) about which Anna and I rightly say:
“This changed everything”. Jack Schwarz is among those
sacred few, and we are very grateful. We will miss him.
We wish him love and peace and joy.
December 16, 2000
This morning, I posted in The Quiet Room a prayer
attributed to St. Ignatius of Loyola (sixteenth century
founder of the Jesuits). I took the prayer from the
& Miracles. Now, hereís the thing. In the
book, the seventh line reads “that you dispose of me”.
That doesnít seem to me to make sense; and I wonder if
the publisher didnít leave out a word, so that it would
read something like “that you may dispose of me”. That
is, in effect, “I surrender myself to You, that You may
do with me as You see fit”. Anyway, I searched the web
for the prayer, to determine if there is a word missing
here, and could not find it. So, with apologies to St.
Ignatius and Carolyn Trickey-Bapty (the bookís author),
I took the initiative, and added the word “may”. So far,
no lightning or thunder. If any TZFer can help here, I
would be extremely grateful (send email to
September 30, 2000
A longtime friend of TZF called
yesterday to say that one of her computers had been
infected by a Trojan horse, a particularly destructive
form of computer virus. Fortunately, she subscribes to a
virus protection program, and so was spared what could
have developed into a very unhappy experience. All of
which should remind us all that some very nasty viruses
are out there, and they can infect even the nicest sorts
of people. So, please, (1) protect yourself with an
anti-virus program like Nortonís
(2) update it at least weekly, and (3) do not open or
click on or in any other way activate attachments to
e-mail messages unless you are ABSOLUTELY certain they
As one of our favorite characters on one of our favorite TV shows used to say, Letís be careful out there.
May 18, 2000
There is a web service which,
from time to time, graciously alerts us to links on The
Zoo Fence that do not work, usually because the site to
which they point either no longer exists or has moved.
Dead links are a real source of frustration for surfers,
and, with as many onward links as there are on The Zoo
Fence, it is difficult for us to ensure they are all
always current. So, I very much appreciate the notices
this service sends us. Evidently, they have developed a
robot that wanders around the web looking for, and
alerting webmasters to, what they call “link rot”. They
call themselves “Seven
Twentyfour”, and their motto is “always watching
the web”. If you own a large website with a lot of
onward links, particularly a commercial site where your
visitors are your customers whom you would like to keep
happy, I urge you to visit this site, and consider their
service. The URL is http://www.seventwentyfour.com/
April 24, 2001
Hereís another site passed
along by our ISP Administrator Ė The URL is http://www.shibumi.org/eoti.htm.
When youíre done there, back into the siteís other pages
(delete the “eoti.htm” in your browserís address space,
and press your keyboardís Enter key). Whoever Dan Hughes
is, he has a sense of humor.
April 10, 2001
A couple of evenings ago, we
rented the movie “The
Devilís Advocate” with Al Pacino and Keanu Reeves.
While this is most certainly not for the entire family
(which is why I am not putting it on TZFís “Books & Videos”
page), and it is not a film I would want to watch just
before retiring for the night, there are nonetheless a
lot of very powerful ideas here, particularly for a
seeker reaching to understand the nature of temptation,
and how we so often get ourselves into trouble with the
very best of intentions. A warning: There are a few
demons, some disturbing scenes, and even a little blood
& gore, so you may want to stand ready at the Mute
and Fast Forward buttons. But if you are an Al Pacino
fan, as I am, youíll love him here.
July 7, 2000
We saw Franco Zeffirelliís
Sun, Sister Moon” about the young adult years of Francis of Assisi. It
is nice, even sometimes very nice, but also a
disappointment. Francis was undoubtedly a powerful and
inspiring seeker, and while some of that comes across,
here he seems a little too wimpy. And I believe there
are some historical inaccuracies, as well. Properly
told, the story of Francis, his conversion, his
journeys, his relationship with Clare, the founding and
development of the Franciscans and the Poor Clares,
would make a wonderful movie. But this isnít it. Still,
itís worth seeing.
March 8, 2000
We saw Bernardo Bertolucciís
movie “Little Buddha” about a
Tibetan Buddhist monk looking for the reincarnation of
his teacher in an American boy. That story is
accompanied by a beautiful and inspiring retelling of
the life and teaching of the historical Buddha. Itís a
beautiful story, well told. We loved it. [PS Tomorrow,
the 29th, is “Leap Year”, another Y2K hurdle for our
computers. Weíll see.]
February 28, 2000
My in-laws visited this
weekend, and in discussion offered this bit of ancient
wisdom: “A person persuaded against his or her will is a
person of the same opinion still.” As seekers, we do well to
learn that lesson, and to remember, just as we do not
like being pushed, we should not push others, however
much we may be convinced that itís “for their own good”.
Remember, too, that whatever we have learned along the
path, whatever we have Remembered, isnít actually ours
September 21, 1999
Wandering the web this
morning, I came across a site called “The Watchful
Shepherd” at http://www.watchful.org/. It breaks
my heart to consider that such a site is necessary! …
but I am grateful to those who manage it.
September 4, 1999
We just rented and watched the
movie “Meet Joe Black” starring Anthony Hopkins, Brad
Pitt, and others. It is wonderful! The script,
direction, acting, editing … all of it is flawless. I
urge you to find it at a video store, and then set aside
an evening to be enchanted, entertained, and taught!
From “Markings” by Dag
Hammarskjold: Do not look back.
And do not dream about the future, either. It will
neither give you back the past, nor satisfy your other
daydreams. Your duty, your reward -- your destiny Ė
are here and now.
I was in South Africa
yesterday (Is the internet great, or what!) visiting a
TZF visitorís website, and there I found this
magnificent dancing fool! I gratefully reproduce it here
with its creatorís permission. As graphics software
programs grow in size, complexity, and price (and, yes,
capability), itís nice to be reminded how much can be
accomplished with just a few keyboard strokes (and a
great imagination). Thanks, Peter!
From “Discourses of Rumi” by A. J. Arberry, Jesus (Issa), upon upon whom be peace, was
asked, ĎSpirit of God, what is the greatest and most
difficult thing in this world and the next?í He
replied, ĎThe wrath of God.í They asked, ĎAnd what
shall save a man from that?í He answered, ĎThat you
master your own wrath, and suppress your rage.í
Plant wrath, harvest wrath.
The One speaks to itself in its own voice.
On the advice of a good friend
of TZF, I purchased from Amazon.com, and have just received,
a translation of the Qurían by Abdullah Yusuf Ali. It
includes excellent commentary
and notes. Already I like it a lot. On first handling, I
was surprised to find the book opens from left to right.
Of course, I assumed an error at the bindery! I even
queried Amazon about it. They reminded me the volume
includes the original Arabic, which, like Hebrew and
unlike English and some other languages, is written from
right to left. That explained the layout. But now, I
find I am discomforted by having to turn the pages “the
wrong way.” How many such habits and predilections do we
have that we are not even aware of, and how much do they
interfere with our accepting “what is” the way it is!
A good friend of TZF recently sent us several excellent books by Timothy Freke, a British (I think) writer and seeker. Among them is “The Hermetica - The Lost Wisdom of the Pharaohs.” A set of religious and philosophical teachings, the Hermetica is attributed to the Egyptian god Thoth, which name was translated into Greek as Hermes or Hermes Trismegistus. Hermeticism has been an important influence in the development of Western thought. Consider these few lines describing Atum, an ancient Egyptian name for the One:
conceive of Atum is difficult.
To define him is impossible.
The imperfect and impermanent
cannot easily apprehend
the eternally perfected.
Atum is whole and constant.
In himself he is motionless,
yet he is self-moving.
He is immaculate,
incorruptible and ever-lasting.
He is the Supreme Absolute Reality.
He is filled with ideas
which are imperceptible to the senses,
and with all-embracing Knowledge.
Atum is Primal Mind.
He is too great
to be called by the name ĎAtumí.
He is hidden,
yet obvious everywhere.
His Being is known through thought alone,
yet we see his form before our eyes.
He is bodiless,
yet embodied in everything.
There is nothing which he is not.
He has no name,
because all names are his name.
He is the unity in all things,
so we must know him by all names
and call everything ĎAtumí …
is everywhere …
All things are thoughts
which the Creator thinks.
That devotee attains the “uttermost perfection” of his individualized incarnate status when he realizes his true Self, the soul, as being of the essence of Godís transcendent consciousness, untouched by bodily experiences, even as the Lord is immutable beyond the activities He sends forth through Cosmic Nature. The way to liberation lies through this realization of the Self, by God-communion and by remaining in this God-aware state of the soul while performing dutiful actions. Any individual can reach this supreme actionless state by the renunciation of all fruits of actions: performing all dutiful acts without harboring in his heart any likes and dislikes, possessing no material desires, and feeling God, not the ego, as the Doer of all actions.
That yogi who is not attached to his own body or his family or the world, even though he joyously works for them with the sole desire of pleasing God; who is in full control of his mind, intelligence, ego, and heart; who is free from all desires for sense pleasures; and who works, yet renounces the fruits of actions, becomes free from the reincarnation-causing triple qualities of mortal and natural actions. The consciousness of such a yogi rests in the immutability of the eternal Spirit.
Itís all right there, in two short
paragraphs. Notice he writes that “any individual can
reach this supreme actionless state.” Any
individual. All thatís wanted is our sincere aspiration.
With that, the rest will follow.
A recent TZF visitor left an invitation
in our Guest Book to visit their website,
which is dedicated to Vivekananda,
and am I glad they did! Among its very nice features is
a “Childrens” page, where I found this wonderful
anecdote contributed by “Daksha Patel, London” [I have
edited it slightly]:
Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson were on a camping trip. After a good meal and a bottle of Ribena, they lay down for the night, and went to sleep. Some hours later, Holmes awoke and nudged his faithful friend.
“Watson, look up, and tell me what you see,” he said.
Watson replied, “I see millions and millions of stars.”
“What does that tell you?” Holmes asked.
Watson pondered for a minute, and then answered. “Astronomically, it tells me that there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets. Astrologically, I observe that Saturn is in Leo. Horologically, I deduce that the time is approximately a quarter past three. Theologically, I can see that God is all powerful and that we are small and insignificant. Meteorologically, I suspect that we will have a beautiful day tomorrow. And what does it tell you, Holmes?”
Sherlock Holmes was silent for a minute; then, he said, “Someone has stolen our tent.”
I have been reading from “Women Saints,
East and West” (Vedanta Press), and it is a very nice
book indeed, not only for its content but also for its
reminder that not all Teachers are male.
As most human societies are male-biased (Although that is changing … isnít it?), most of us naturally think of Teachers as being male (like Abraham,Issa (Jesus), Mohammed, Gautama, Ramakrishna, Lao Tsu, and so on), but Truth is genderless, and as seekers we must welcome that Fact, embrace it, and live it. It is not enough simply to say it, much less mutter it. The male bias has been in us all, men and women, so long that it has become, one might say, part of our DNA. So here, as elsewhere, the inner work must literally go all the way to the cellular level, until we automatically, even instinctively, think genderlessly.
Anyway, the chapter on the Sufi saint Rabiía lists the stages toward Union, as she sees them. Beginning at the “lowest” (earliest along the way) they are,
1) Repentance, described as both the consciousness and the admission of oneís own sins and shortcomings, both of commission and omission, including (and this is nice) our misunderstanding about our own nature and the Nature of God;
2) Patience, being the complete and unconditional acceptance of whatever unfolds in our lives;
3) Gratitude is like patience but a little “higher,” in that it is actively (in todayís jargon, we might say proactively) positive. Thus, if patience means accepting our lives, however they unfold, with quiet resignation, gratitude is doing so joyfully!
4) Hope and Fear, being the hope for Union with God and the fear of separation from God. At first, these might function as a selfish motivation to stay on the path (”Seek Paradise, avoid hell”); later, they are simply the recognition of and affinity for the Natural State;
5) Voluntary Poverty, “a complete cleansing of the heart of all selfish desires, and turning it towards God alone.”
6) Asceticism, meaning “the perfect control of the lower, physical self by the higher, spiritual one.” That is, freely, easily, and happily releasing all the distractions in our lives, one by one, until nothing remains but the One, which is Truth (God);
7) Dependence on God, which is the complete dedication of oneís being to the Sole Being; in effect, (borrowing Witter Bynnerís wonderful phrase from his translation of the Tao Te Ching) “an obedience not commanded but of course.”
8) Love, meaning love that is constant, effortless, self-sustaining, all-absorbing, and disinterested (for no reason). In a word, What Is.
The book “Women Saints, East and West” can be purchased from Vedanta Press at their website (enter the title in the search box).
From “The Autobiography of Malcolm X”
(Ballantine), page 340: Speaking of his experience
during a pilgrimage (Hajj) to the Ka’aba in Mecca with
Muslims of all races and colors, “We were truly all the
same (brothers) because their belief in one God had
removed the ‘white’ from their minds, the
‘white’ from their behavior, and the
from their attitude. … I could see from this,
that perhaps if white Americans could accept the Oneness
of God, then perhaps, too, they could accept in
reality the Oneness of Man.”
His point is so obvious, it is almost a cliche. But then, why is it so difficult for us to remember it, not to mention practice it!
Clearly, if every one of us would keep God’s Nature or Buddha Nature or Truth or whatever we chose to call It in the forefront of our mind all of the time, then it would be impossible for us to strike a blow against another, whether in thought, word, deed, or attitude.
So simple. So difficult.
From the book “Vivekananda, The Yogas and Other Works” -
After every happiness comes misery; they may be far apart or near. The more advanced the soul, the more quickly does the one follow the other. What we want is neither happiness nor misery. Both make us forget our true nature; both are chains - one iron, one gold. Behind both is Atman [the immortal Self], who knows neither happiness nor misery. These are states, and states must ever change; but the nature of the Soul is bliss, peace - unchanging. We have not to get it; we have it. Only wash away the dross and see it.
Renounce the good of the world,
Renounce the good of heaven,
Renounce your highest ideal,
And then renounce renunciation.
And again, from the same book, “In order to arrive at spiritual attainment, two gulfs must be crossed: the sea of attachment and the ocean of detachment.”
I suppose, as seekers, we all know we must release our reliance upon and attachment to the worldís stuff (our thoughts and things), but who among us expects to become attached to detachment? The egoic mind is devious. If it canít have what it wants, it wants whatever it can have (and then takes pride in it!) Ė including, it seems, not wanting.
Rereading this reminded me of a phenomenon called the “veil of darkness” and the “veil of light.” (I cannot remember where I first heard or read those terms.)
The former is our normal and natural ignorance of what is. Thus, the veil of darkness is what most of us live behind most of the time. It is lifted by the light of knowledge. So, in effect, each of us starts out on the path, lost somewhere behind the veil of darkness (unaware of our true nature), but with time and aspiration and grace, the veil is lifted to reveal the Truth.
That is when we are most vulnerable to the other one, the veil of light, for this is what blinds us when we think we know! With just a glimpse of the Truth, we convince ourselves we know it all, and woe betide those who perceive it differently. Here, we have discovered a little, but still too little to realize how little.
The veil of light. It doesn’t sound like a trap, but it is.
Thank God for God, or we’d
never make it through this maze.
There is a family of red foxes that lives in the woods
nearby. Last evening, our
neighbor saw one of the kits calmly trotting into her
barn. This morning, she found the fox in an empty horse
stall, curled up against one wall, as if asleep. But the
fox was not asleep; the fox was dead. There is a wound
on one leg that may have been the cause of death. The
warden reports it is not unusual for foxes to select a
barn as a place to die.
But hereís the thing thatís getting to me. All the evidence at the scene suggests this fox died calmly and easily, as if it considered death as natural a process of life as hunting field mice, feasting on wild blueberries, or prancing down a country road. There are no signs of frantic digging, scratching, wall climbing, or other desperate behavior. This fox was not trying to escape its fate, and it did not struggle against it. Instead, it seems that some time yesterday, this fox realized somewhere within that it was going to die last night, and so it found an appropriate site, and, without any fanfare, it simply did so.
Compare that performance with how any of us would have reacted to similar news. We would have fought tooth and nail! What is the difference between us and the fox? Is it perhaps that we perceive death as the opposite of life, and so we fear it terribly; and the fox recognizes death is the opposite of birth, and so takes it in stride.
For anyone in search of a meditation practice, permit me to suggest: Consider the foxes, and how they die.
Those who knew TZF in hard copy may
remember the “The Seven Giant Steps” we lifted from J.
Vaughn Booneís book, “De Riva - The Magic Formula”.
Today, I posted it on the site, on the first letters page. We shared
a podium with Vaughn many years ago, and loved him
instantly. He is a wonderful fellow, who sheds healing
and light everywhere he goes, on whomever he encounters.
Wherever he might be now, we wish him well.
The world will miss King Hussein of
Jordan. Inextricably caught between all sides in the
endless ĎArab-Israeli Conflict,í King Hussein was a
bright light, preaching sanity, practicing good sense,
and reaching for resolution. He was a direct descendant
of the Prophet, and it showed. In the words of Muhammad, ”Do
you love your Creator? Love
your fellow beings first.”
We just saw the movie “City of Angels.” If you want to understand why you are in the flesh, why each of us has chosen a separate and separative, incarnated identity, with all their ups and downs, please see this movie.
I have come across a site that offers
several excellent essays on “Centering Prayer” Ė what it
is, how to do it, suggested book titles, some
references. On the use of a “Sacred Word” to help in
centering and focusing, consider this observation: Sometimes you will need the sacred word
only a few times, and other sessions you will need to
use it a thousand times. Remember that whenever you
use it, you are saying to God “I want to be with you,
and I consent to You being with me and changing me in
any way that You want to.” So donít be discouraged
during the times you need to use it frequently - that
is just so many more times you say YES to God!
(Update: When I came across it, this website was on GeoCities's server as was TZF for a couple of years. But GeoCities has long since disappeared, and apparently this website with it.)
I have just been to a website called
“Mysticism in World Religions” at http://www.digiserve.com/mystic/.
If you have not been there, I urge a visit. You will
find a wealth of quotations from the worldís great
mystics. There is a very nice page called “Comparison
of Mysticism in World Religions” where the
treatment of various subjects (like ego, desire,
humility, grace) by different religions is compared.
(Update: Unfortunately, this website seems no longer to exist. While searching for it, I came across a website called Age of The Sage which, while not the same, is similar and looks interesting.)
We recently saw the movie “Kundun.”
Directed by Martin Scorsese, this is the story of the
current Dalai Lama, from early childhood to his escape
out of Tibet into India. It is wonderful!
A good friend of TZF suggested we read The Cosmic Serpent - DNA & The Origins of Knowledge by Jeremy Narby, and weíre glad she did. Narby is an anthropologist who, while doing research in Peruís Amazon jungle, discovered what he interprets to be a link between what western scientists know about the nature of DNA and what Amazonian shamans know about everything. Specifically, he suggests that the serpent mythologies present in virtually all cultures, are really about the double helix we know as DNA. Narbyís findings and his conclusions, not to mention his experiences under the influence of a local hallucinogenic plant, make for interesting reading.
In one of the episodes of the PBS
television program “A Science Odyssey with Charles
Osgood,” there is a wonderful comment by Robert
Kirshner, astrophysicist at the Center for Astrophysics,
that, although he is talking about his own work as a
scientist, is almost a perfect description of a seekerís
path, making once again the point that those at the
farthest limits of science and religion are reaching for
the very same thing.
“The actual measuring and so on, itís very laborious, and itís slow. And you sit there, and it takes all night for these photons to dribble in. But the thing that makes it exciting, even thrilling in a kind of quiet way, is that weíre after a big question. Weíre really after a question that people have been interested in for a long time, ever since they could kind of frame the question. What is the fate of the Universe? Is it going to last forever? How will things end? These are big questions, and weíre really on a path that could give us a concrete answer in the context of how we understand the universe today of which of those possibilities is really the right one. So, thatís a lot of fun, and it keeps you awake at night.”
Rented the movie “Michael”, about a
mission on earth by the Archangel Michael. We liked it
so much we watched it twice! John Travolta plays the
title role, and he performs it flawlessly. I have heard
that some folks dislike the film because of the way it
depicts the lead character. I can understand their
discomfort, for it puts into question many of the
assumptions all of us have about angels. For example, in
this movie, Michael has a sweet tooth gone berserk (”You
canít eat too much sugar,” he tells us), he smokes
cigarettes, he eats sloppily, he sleeps standing up and
he snores, he evidently enjoys sex, his wings are
soiled, he can be a little crude, and he loves to do
battle (he even picks a fight with a bull in a
pasture!). But, through it all, Michael is thoroughly,
delightfully, consistently, and unquestionably
angelic.There is never any doubt that he is a Divine
So, for a seeker, hereís the question the movie raises: If an angel can live and behave in effect as we do, and still remain “angelic” ó that is, clearly, spontaneously, and uninterruptedly aware of and expressing the Divinity of the Universe and of his own Nature, then why cannot we?
The One remains, the many change and pass;
Heavenís light forever shines, Earthís shadows fly;
Life, like a dome of many-coloured glass,
Stains the white radiance of Eternity.
“Love is presupposing love; to have love is to presuppose love in others; to be loving is to presuppose that others are loving.” W.H. Auden in “The Living Thoughts of Kierkegaard”. Thus, one might say that he or she is wise, and believe, rightly or wrongly, that others are unwise. But one cannot believe that he or she is loving and that others are not, for to be truly loving is to recognize love in all.
“What is demanded
of man is not, as some existential philosophies teach,
to endure the meaninglessness of life; but rather to
bear his incapacity to grasp its unconditional
meaningfulness in rational terms. Logos is deeper than
logic.” Viktor E. Frankl in “Man’s Search
for Meaning”. The mind cannot understand the meaning of
life, of oneís life, because the mind is part of or an
aspect of that life. Just as a flashlight can cast light
on anything in the universe except itself! For that, one
has to go beyond the instrument, to what precedes it.
An eminent psychiatrist, Viktor Frankl was imprisoned for three years in Nazi concentration camps, where he observed that some of his fellow inmates “behaved like swine, while others behaved like saints.” The difference seemed to be that the latter retained a sense of meaning to their lives. Remarkably, they were able not only to survive the horrific environment of the camps, but to grow in it. Quoting Nietzsche, “He who has a why to live can bear with almost any how.” From this, Frankl developed his own theory of psychology, logotherapy, whose basic tenet is “that manís concern is not to gain pleasure or avoid pain, but rather to see a meaning in his life.”
This is an extraordinarily moving, uplifting, interesting, challenging, and sometimes disturbing book. (To purchase it from Amazon.com, click here.)
“A vessel that grows as it is filled will never be full. The soul is like that: The more it wants, the more is it given; the more it receives, the more it grows.” From “Meister Eckhart” by Raymond Blakely (page 233, Harper).
Discover magazine (5/97) article about Richard Zare at Stanford, talks of Alfred North Whitehead (English philosopher & mathematician, 1861-1947) as having defined Unitarianism as “the belief that there is at most one God.” What an extraordinary way to put it! It is almost impossible to read it without considering it.
“God speaks in parables to mankind.” Qur’an, 24:35 (trans. N. J. Dawood, Penquin) Notice there are no qualifiers, no “usually,” “sometimes,” “mostly.” Just, God speaks in parables. As I understand the term, a parable is essentially a metaphor. I remember reading somewhere that a parable is a “metaphorical analogy.” So, “God speaks in parables to mankind.” could as well be stated “God speaks in metaphors to mankind.” Thus, the Qur’an offers this is as the answer to the question everyone of us asks from time to time: How does God speak to mankind? And the answer is, In metaphors. Of course, it must be true. After all, clearly God cannot speak other than the Truth, and the Truth cannot be spoken (cf. Lao Tzu among numberless others). (Who was it who said, “I never spoke the Truth in all my life”? I do not remember.) So, if what you and I each call “my life” (the world, reality) is ultimately the One being that (What else can it be, the One being Infinite, and there being no thing else but the One?), then our lives too must be metaphors. Indeed, we are ourselves metaphors. Consider that.
From “The Sufis” by Idries Shah (page
396, Doubleday/Anchor, available on our Bookstore page):
A seeker approaches a Teacher, and says, “I wish to learn, will you teach me?”
The Teacher replies, “I do not feel that you know how to learn.”
The seeker says, “Can you teach me how to learn?”
The Teacher responds, “Can you learn how to let me teach?”
On EWTN (Global Catholic Television Network), a program covering the 1997 World Youth Day in Paris, an American cleric (I think he said he was from New York) reports that on the day (presumably many years ago) he became a bishop, he encountered Mother Teresa outside St. Peterís church in Rome. Although he recognized her, Mother Teresa would not have known him, he said. Anyway, she approached him, and said, simply, gently, “Give God permission.” Nothing more, just “Give God permission.” What an idea. An infinite, omnipotent divinity, the creator of everything, the creator that is everything everywhere always, the creator that is us … needs our permission! Think about that.
On a Public Broadcasting System television program “Michelangelo, Restored” about the restoration of the frescoes in the Vaticanís Sistine Chapel, the artist is quoted as having said or written, “If life was found to be agreeable, then so should death, for it comes from the hand of the same Creator.” As I recall, they said this was a response by Michelangelo to someone who was worried about death. I tried to find the item on PBSís web site, to be sure I have the quotation right, and for the citation, but was unsuccessful. Any TZF visitors know? Anyway, Michelangeloís absolutely right. If God created death, then whatís to fear? Why donít we know that?
From Malcolm Muggeridge’s book “Jesus Rediscovered” (page 70, Doubleday), quoting HughKingsmill: “What is divine in Man is elusive and impalpable, and he is easily tempted to embody it in a collective form a church, a country, a social system, a leader so that he may realize it with less effort and serve it with more profit. Yet the attempt to externalise the kingdom of heaven in a temporal shape must end in disaster. It cannot be created by charters or constitutions, nor established by arms. Those who set out for it alone will reach it together, and those who seek it in company will perish by themselves.” Wow!
PBSís NewsHour (7/9/98), a “Dialogue on Race” chaired by Jim Lehrer, with President Clinton and others, discussing racism in the US. Recalls to mind Rodney Kingís haunting question, “Canít we all get along?” Whatís a seekerís perspective on this issue? Can we all “get along” in any meaningful (that is, fundamentally peace-full) way as long as we consider ourselves to be different, separate, apart? If each of us starts from the presumption that “I am me, and you arenít,” then our relationships, however well intentioned we may be, will always start from confrontation, and will always be informed by it. Each of us will constantly be defending our limits and observing the otherís! (What a waste, not to mention misuse, of energy! No wonder weíre all so tired all the time!) Even a ďgroup hug” cannot erase that fundamental sense of separation. So, as long as you and I each think of ourselves as being white-not-black or black-not-white, Catholic-not-Protestant, straight-not-gay, Arab-not-Israeli, even male-not-female, or whatever-not-whatever else, we will never be able truly to erase the arbitrary, artificial boundary we place between us because as fast as we erase it with one side of our brain, we will be redrawing it with the other Ė like Emmett Kellyís clown act, trying to sweep away the light beam! So, the answer to racism, or any other form of íism, is not some form of ďbeing nice” but the discovery of our True Nature, remembering who we are in Truth. That alone can erase all of the boundaries, definitions, and fortifications each of us has erected around ourselves, and they will disappear not because erasing them is ďthe right thing to do” but because there simply wonít be any. Thus, ultimately, True Peace requires no effort! Find out “Who Am I?” even just seek to find out “Who Am I?” and racism will dissolve and disappear on its own. How can a true seeker discriminate against another when she or he knows the other to be himself or herself?
To read TZF’s earlier Desktop entries click here. Some of the links there are to TZF pages that no longer exist, and generate the Oops! page. Just ignore them.
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