A week or so after the Washington Chautauqua I found myself sitting in Rose's kitchen in Benwood listening to the litany of offenses that led to Augie's departure. Some of Rose's criticisms seemed trivial--like Augie allowing the people from the farm to sleep on the floor in D.C. while he occupied a bed--but others were more substantial, and by now, indisputable. As Rose painted on and on with his very wide brush, I wondered how much of the stain was meant for me as well. It was not uncommon for Rose to confront someone by using a third party as an example of the faults in question.
"Well, what do we do now?" I asked, eager to change the subject.
"We keep moving, that's what we do," he said angrily. "Nobody's indispensable in this group. That was part of Augie's problem--he thought we couldn't live without him."
That kicked off another ten minutes of painful Augie anecdotes, after which I tried again to divert him. "Where do we go from here, Mister Rose??"
"I don't know where the Chautauquas are going," he replied, putting the kettle on, "but you're going to start your law practice."
I was stunned. If there was anything I was sure of after my year on the road with Augie, it was that the feel of this path beneath my feet was now more important to me than anything the mundane world, including a law career, might offer.
"But I want to stick with this project, Mister Rose. I think I can..."
His eyes flashed. "I'm not going to sacrifice the future of this group just so you can continue to build up your ego. You've had your fun, now it's time to get to work."
I was so surprised by the harshness of his words that it took a moment for them to sink in. By then he had changed his tone.
"Look," he said, softly, "I don't like to interfere in people's destinies. You've put years in so that you could be a lawyer. I'm not going to get in the way of what you're supposed to do. Maybe you'll still have time to help out on the Chautauquas, maybe not. But what's important is that you don't use the group as an excuse to keep from taking the next step."
"I haven't given any thought to law for months. How to start, where..."
"Start right here. Wheeling's got plenty of crooks to go around. Bunk upstairs if you want. Garyís moving out tomorrow, so there's a bed available."
My mind was still reeling from the sudden turn of the conversation. "Mister Rose, I..."
"Think it over," he said, laughing at my stunned expression. "Everybody's got to grow up sometime."
A week later, full of second thoughts and reservations, I moved into Roseís house in Benwood. The population there was fluid, ever-changing. People moved in excited and inspired, then grew weary or perplexed or angry, and left. Sometimes only a few people were living there, but when I moved in the house was full.
I shared a bedroom with Al, Dan, Frank, and occasionally Rose's son, James. Linda and Jean, Dan and Frank's wives, stayed in the middle upstairs room, while Carrie and Brenda, two single women, occupied the bedroom farthest from the men. Downstairs, Mister Rose was crammed into the smallest room, while his daughter Kathy had recently moved into the other with her two-year old daughter.
The atmosphere in the house was a reflection of its owner, an eclectic blend of the miraculous and mundane, where mind-readings were as common as reprimands for putting a tin can in the burnable trash bag, or leaving the lights on when you were the last to bed.
Some of his rules, like strict morning bathroom schedules and rigid division of shelf space, would have been necessary in any house where so many strangers lived so close together. Others were a function of our peculiar circumstance, where men and women were welcome to live and work together for a higher purpose, as long as no other purpose got in the way. Rose was extremely sensitive to the subtleties of the human sexual mechanism and maintained strict protocols, even in areas others might not consider suggestive. For instance, his rules for the disposal of sanitary napkins read, as Al once remarked, like federal regulations for the dumping of nuclear waste.
Discipline for rule infractions could range anywhere from a wisecrack, to days or even weeks of relentless confrontation. This was not pleasant, but it was expected. Supposedly we had all chosen to live with Rose in order to accelerate our progress on the spiritual path--to "Know Thyself." Rose's preferred method for helping us get to know ourselves was to constantly confront us about as many of our frailties as we could take, and then some.
My behavior, and everyone else's, became somewhat schizophrenic under this kind of pressure. My spiritual self wanted him to know me better so he could tell me what blocked my progress on the path to enlightenment. But my ego self shrank from criticism of any kind and tried to cover up my flaws with smoke and mirrors. Ironically, it was no use anyway. No matter how many masks you wore or subterfuges you tried you always felt transparent around Rose. He seemed to see through everything with laughable ease.
The kitchen was the center of the house. In the winter it was the only heated room, and at all times of year Rose used it as a combination living room, dining room, office and study--as well as kitchen. For those of us who lived there it was a magical place of community, solace, embarrassment, pain. A remarkable place to visit or ponder in the abstract, but tough to endure when you had no where else to go.
Mornings were especially unpredictable. For the first hour or so of the day Rose's mind seemed suspended between the world of his dreams, which he took quite seriously, and the world of waking reality. The kitchen vibrated with a tense otherworldliness. The women seemed especially sensitive to it, and I noticed that they usually tried to get out of the house and off to work as quickly as possible. When one lingered too long in conversation with Rose, she invariably left unsettled, angry, or on the verge of tears.
Evenings had a slightly different feel. People would drift in from work stealthily, or with forced cheerfulness, buying time until they could remember where they left the spiritual face they tried to wear around Rose. After a day spent being themselves they knew their egos were closer to the surface and more exposed. With harder and bigger heads to work with, Rose adjusted his tactics, and more often it was the men who got hit at night.
Dan was probably the biggest target. He never let down the tough guy act, whether it was bullying three crews of drunken hillbilly carpet installers during the day at work, or trying to ramrod his way into a little spiritual wisdom in the evening. Like Rose, he could be harsh, demanding, stubborn. Unlike Rose, he seemed to have no other facets.
Dan worked the hardest, made the most money, and was usually the last one to come home. We were sitting at the table one evening watching the news when Dan came in, grunted a hello and immediately went to the telephone in the hallway. Rose kept one ear on the television set and one ear on Dan, who was on the phone for the next half hour, first haggling with the owner of a carpet store about some money he thought he had coming, then arranging to pick up his wife after work and take her to a movie.
The news was over by the time Dan returned to the kitchen. He took a sirloin steak out of the refrigerator and threw it into an iron skillet. When the steak was done he sat down at the table, sliced off a big chunk of meat, then looked up at Rose.
"Mister Rose," he said, putting the meat in his mouth, "Iíve got a question about enlightenment."
Rose, who was washing his hands at the sink, didn't look up. "Which enlightenment are you talking about? The cheap brand, or the high priced spread?"
"You know what I mean. I was reading something yesterday about the void."
"The void? Youíve been reading that pornography again." Rose smiled but his voice had an edge.
Dan cocked his head at Rose as he chewed. "Youíre not taking me seriously."
"Thatís because youíre not taking me seriously." Roseís smile was gone. He left the sink without drying his hands and walked over to where Dan sat at the table. "You march in here like a big shot. Youíve got plans to make. You argue about your money, line up a date with your wife, fry up a big steak. Youíre an important man. And now the big shot wants a little enlightenment talk to go with his meat, like onion rings. Forget it! If you want to be entertained while you eat, go to a fancy restaurant and hire a singing waiter. If you want to talk with me about enlightenment, prove it by changing your life. Show me youíre serious about something besides money, sex, and food. Then weíll talk!"
I suppose living with him was very "Zen." He kept us all "at-tension." You never knew which ego or attitude you had betrayed until he pointed it out in front of everyone. Most often they were trivial offenses that Rose saw as indicators of larger issues. One woman was crowding everyone out of the cupboard because she "thinks she's the chief hen in the chicken house." Another, he said, was leaving the door to her bedroom open with her underwear draped over a chair in full view, "hoping one of the billy goats in the far room might get downwind." Al never washed his silverware because "he thinks he's on a first name basis with God, and God would never let one of his best friends get food poisoning." I left the house unlocked several times because I was "still a kid thinking his mother's gonna come along behind him and take care of everything."
But just when you caught yourself wondering why you were there, you'd get a glimpse of that mysterious something that lay behind the man and his personality. Something that made the rest of your life seem like a foolish dream.
One Saturday a dozen of us gathered at an enormous dilapidated building the TAT Society had recently purchased to house various group enterprises. One of the supporting walls was ready to collapse, and we had put out the call to the Pittsburgh and Ohio groups for manpower to help repair it. The response was overwhelming. Twenty guys showed up, but it was pouring rain and we sat around all morning waiting for it to let up. At noon we tuned in the news and the weatherman announced that it would continue to rain steadily all weekend.
"Well, I guess I'll just have to stop the rain, then," Rose said. Everyone laughed, but Rose just raised his eyebrows like a man who knew a secret. Within minutes the skies cleared. Working frantically, we got the wall rebuilt in record time. Then, as we loaded our tools in the truck the rain resumed and didn't let up for two days.
Several days later when we were alone in the kitchen I asked Rose about the incident. He reflected a moment before answering, as if deciding how much I should be told.
"It is permissible for man to implement magic," he said, "as long as he doesn't willfully implement magic."
I must have looked very confused by his explanation because he burst out laughing.
"Don't try to think about it," he said. "You'll blow a gasket. You either know this yourself--intuitively, in a single grasp!--or you haven't a clue. There is no room for thought or partial understanding. It can be known, but never understood."
Even though I was living in the same house with him, it was rare that I had a chance to talk to Rose alone there. For this reason the times I treasured most were when we were traveling together. Out on the highway, away from the crowded, contentious kitchen, I invariably felt as if I were discovering Rose for the first time.
It was generally Chautauqua duty that provided those opportunities. I had taken over the title of "Program Coordinator," but it was a title without substance. After his experience with Augie, Rose handled all but the most mundane tasks himself. He said I should be concentrating on my career anyway, so I spent the summer months of 1977 preparing for the West Virginia Bar exam, looking for a place to set up my law practice, and tagging along with Rose on Chautauqua business whenever he'd let me.
Towards the end of August we took a ride to Steubenville, Ohio, a depressing mill town thirty miles up river from the depressing mill town of Benwood where we lived. Rose had set up an appointment to meet a man who supposedly knew a lot of healers, which was the theme of our next Chautauqua.
I had a long list of things I wanted to talk with Rose about during the ride. I had no idea how or where to start a law practice, the Chautauquas were going downhill on my watch, and I felt like I was making very little progress on the long hard task of overcoming my unwieldy ego. But after a few miles those things seemed to fade in importance. Gliding down the open road with Rose, the evening sun turning the Ohio River into a glistening gold, my worries melted. We rode in silence for awhile. Rose was the first to speak.
"You know," he said, staring out the window at the water, "healing used to be more common in the old days because it served a pragmatic purpose. Back in Christ's time, they didn't have any newspapers. All your advertising had to be done by word of mouth. That's why you needed miracles. If you heal a guy of leprosy, word gets around."
"Do you think Christ really performed all those miracles?"
"If he really was a son of God--in other words, if he really had transcended the illusion--then yes, anything is possible. Once you visit Reality, you know that miracles are nothing more than tinkering with the fiction we think is real life."
"Does a person have to be enlightened to do what Christ is supposed to have done?"
"Not necessarily. Some people have a way of maintaining that state of mindlessness that proves to be creative. Somehow they stumble on a condition of high indifference, and from there you dream it--you will it--then you forget it."
"But there must be limits," I said. "You never read about anything really incredible."
Rose paused a moment as if thinking how to phrase his words so that even I might understand. "Once a person has the formula," he said finally, "anything can be changed, even the future. Through determination, a man can discover how to completely change his destiny. Thereís thoughts--which are not yours, but come from elsewhere--and there gaps between thoughts. When you get into that gap between thoughts, you have the opportunity to completely reshuffle you life. This may sound impossible to you now, but try not to let your ignorance get in the way of understanding. I have just told you something of priceless value."
"I think I understand what you mean," I said weakly.
"No, you haven't a clue," he smiled. "But that's to be expected. If you understood there would be no need for talking."
He stayed silent for awhile as if to let me experience how little I did know. Strangely, my mind was almost totally blank. I could barely remember what we were talking about. When he spoke again his voice startled me.
"The formula for this is between-ness. A person doesnít have to be enlightened to practice it. Between-ness is the ability to anticipate what is going to happen in the dimension of the Manifesting Mind. You can do almost anything, as long as your will accords with the will of the Manifesting Mind. Actually, you could say that when you are in a between state your will becomes the will of the Manifesting Mind. This is how destinies are changed.
"But in a practical sense, youíre right. For all but the most powerful beings there are limitations. You notice that none of these healers puts a leg back on, for instance. That's because they're operating on a 'faith' quantum, and there's too many people without that faith, too many people believing it can't be done. Moving mountains requires agreeable, movable mountains.
"It's like in the Bible where it says that Christ did not do many great works in his hometown. That's because he was tapping into people's belief and faith. People meeting Christ for the first time were more open to the possibilities and Christ could use their energy and belief to perform miracles. But in his hometown they remembered him as just a kid, a common carpenter, and he did not have enough personal power to overcome their disbelief.
"Even when conditions are right for you to do something, like take away a sickness, you might decide against it. Sometimes you're not doing a person a favor by healing them. Generally something's got their teeth into them, or it's their lifestyle that's gotten them into trouble and that's what has to change. I don't believe in patching tires. I believe in removing the nails from the highway."
I drove with uncharacteristic slowness, partly because Rose insisted on allowing two hours for a forty-minute trip, but mostly to prolong each untroubled moment. After all, this was the same guy who had given me hell that morning for leaving the kitchen spigot dripping.
Our directions led us to a modest, well-kept brick home in a quiet neighborhood. As we got out of the car I realized we hadn't discussed strategy.
"Do you have any particular approach in mind for this guy?" I asked, mindful of Rose's criticism that I was always "working off the top of my head."
"Just be a friend," he replied.
I followed Rose to the rear of the house and stood behind him as he knocked on the door. A tall man about Roseís age answered.
"Slim. Just call me Slim," he said, as we all shook hands. He motioned for us to follow him down to the basement. Inside the spacious cellar, we walked past various work stations of spotless machinery and eventually took seats in a small cubicle which served as office for the machine shop he ran out of his home.
Slim was an easy man to like. Within minutes he and Rose were laughing and joking like old friends. It was a stark contrast to the year before, when Augie and I viewed every contact as a challenge and every signed-up speaker as a conquest.
An hour passed while the two veterans of the occult swapped stories about healers and healing. Rose said there were two methods of healing, one drawing on the combined energy quantum of those present, while the other involved a "way of holding your head" which drained neither the healer nor the audience.
Slim nodded thoughtfully. "Yes, that makes sense," he replied, "how else could Ambrose Worrels have healed people well into his eighties?"
I began to wonder when Rose would get into the business of our visit, which was to tap into Slim's extensive healing contacts for our next Chautauqua. Rose seemed totally unconcerned with business or time and launched into yet another story, this one about a famous faith healer whose assistants slyly kicked the crutches out from under those about to be "struck by the Lord."
Slim interrupted. "You know," he said to Rose in his pleasant drawl, "you're healing me."
Rose barely reacted. "Yeah?"
"Yes, that's a fact," Slim said, grinning broadly. "I've got a bad case of emphysema--had it for years. But while you and I have been talking my chest has cleared, and I tell you I feel like a damned kid again."
"Well, if I did it was an accident," Rose said, then he finished telling his story.
An hour later we were driving home in the dark, the bright colored lights of the power plants dancing on the blackened Ohio River as we followed it to Benwood. Rose seemed tired or preoccupied, or both, and we rode mostly in silence. I wanted him to talk about the incident at Slim's, but his mind was elsewhere. Finally I brought it up myself.
"Mister Rose, did you try to heal Slim down there in the basement?"
"Hell no. I didn't even know I was healing him."
"What happened, then?"
"Hard to say, really. His office was so crowded with stuff there wasn't much room to sit. You were off to one side of us, but me and Slim were right in front of each other, our knees almost touching. I didn't want to stare right at him at such close quarters, so I picked a button on his shirt to focus on. He said something happened in his chest, that's all I know."
That night in the kitchen I related the story of Slim to the others. There were only a few of us there--Mister Rose, Frank, and Jeff, a visitor from the Cleveland group who had come down for the night. When I finished talking the others looked to Rose.
"I didn't know I was healing him," Rose said. "But there's a tremendous power in between-ness. When circumstances are right, things happen."
"Like with Jane that time, Mister Rose?" Frank asked.
"Well, yes, in a way. Although her experience that day was on a much different level. In that case I was actually inside her head."
Jeff looked puzzled. "Inside her head?"
Rose started to explain, then apparently decided to begin at the beginning.
"Jane was a woman who came down to my place a few years ago with her husband, although for the life of me I don't know why. Not only wasn't she interested in what we were doing, she was downright antagonistic. Her only concern was to get her husband out of the group as quickly as possible."
"Her husband was a friend of mine from the Pittsburgh group," Frank explained to Jeff. "We decided to bring our wives down to meet Mister Rose that weekend."
"Yeah, well, I gave 'em the usual tour," Rose said. "Took 'em out to the farm for a look around. Jane was very cold towards me and not even civil in her conversation. A funny thing happened, though, on the way out there. We were riding in their pickup truck with her sitting in the middle and me sitting next to her in the passenger seat. It was a small truck and we were pretty close. The whole ride I kept feeling this sensation like an electric current passing between us. It was hitting me in the stomach, just below the navel, and was uncomfortable. I didn't think much about it. Just figured it was tension of some kind from the awkward situation, I guess. Later I found out different."
Frank picked up the narrative. "We all came back to Benwood and that evening Mister Rose decided to hold a rapport sitting in the middle room. There were about six or seven of us, I guess, sitting quietly in a circle..."
"But Jane didn't sit with us," Rose interrupted. "She didn't want no parts of us. She stayed out in the kitchen, here, and while we were sitting I heard her make a cup of coffee and use the sugar bowl.
"The energy in the room got real strong," Frank said. "Real strong and..."
"I can see it when it's strong enough," Rose said. "It was visible to me that night."
"See it?" Jeff said.
"Oh, yes. Usually it looks like a hazy humanoid form floating horizontally over the heads of the people in the room. I can see where it's going, or direct it. I don't know which."
"It went to me," Frank said.
Rose nodded. "It hit Frank and..."
"I never felt anything like it. I felt like I was taking off somewhere. It scared me, but I was also..."
"His eyes was like this," Rose chuckled, making big circles with his fingers around his own eyes.
"Mister Rose nods at me..."
"Just to let him know everything was going to be all right."
"Then Jane walked in and stole it." Frank shook his head slowly.
Rose laughed. "Happens every time. A woman will steal a man's energy one way or the other. Probably Frank's one shot at an Experience and..."
"I don't understand," Jeff said.
"Women are more sensitive," Rose explained. "That's why I usually separate men and women for rapport sittings. If there's energy around, most of the time it will go to a woman."
"But, I mean, what happened?"
Rose went on. "Jane came to the door of the living room just as Frank's on the verge of going into something. I looked over at her and said, 'I see you've been in the sugar bowl.' I didn't mean anything by it. It was just something to say. But as soon as I said it the energy left Frank and went to her. Boom. Down she goes. Hits the floor like she's been clubbed, and immediately she starts weeping. She went into an experience right there. I knew what was happening to her because our heads were locked. I pulled up a chair next to her and said, 'You know what's happening don't you? I'm in your head.'
"She says, 'I know. You've been there all day.'" Rose leaned forward. "That electricity I felt in the truck. She'd felt it too. Something was starting then."
"What was happening to her, Mister Rose?" Jeff asked.
"She had what I call the ĎMountain Experience.í This is where you see the world as an illusion. You attain an awareness that's superior to this dimension and the reality of this world simply evaporates. She kept looking at her husband and reaching out towards him, saying 'You're not there. I know I can see you, but you're not there.' She was on the floor weeping for two hours straight." Rose made a large circle with his hands. "Left a puddle of snot on the rug this big. I ain't kidding 'ya. We used up a whole roll of paper towels on it."
"You were experiencing all this with her, in her head?" Jeff asked.
"It was my Experience she was having," Rose said simply. "Our minds were one. My thoughts were her thoughts, her thoughts were my thoughts. Because mine is the more deeply rooted mind, it's dominant. This is how transmission occurs. While our heads were locked I entered the mood of my Experience and she came with me as far as she could. I tried to take her farther but she couldn't go. She saw the world as a shadow but she never saw what is real. After two hours I could see she was wasn't going any farther, so I just turned my head away--my internal head, I mean, of course--and she came out of it.
"What was she like afterwards?"
"Ecstatic, literally beaming. Radiant. She kept following me around, thanking me over and over, asking what she could possibly do to repay me. I told her, 'You pay for this by working with someone else.' She says, 'Oh I will, I will.'"
"I never heard from her again until a year later--a year to the day, as it turns out. Late one night in the rain there's a knock on my door and it's her. We had a long talk. She was in bad shape. Said she couldn't hold a job. Separated from her husband. She told me she'd been spending most of her energy trying to push the experience out of her life so she could be a normal person again. The last I heard she was in Texas somewhere."
Frank held his head in his hands. "Pushing it away. I just don't get it."
Rose shrugged. "She wasnít prepared for it, thatís all," he said. "She hadnít done any of the necessary work beforehand. Itís a strange paradox. On the one hand itís true that spiritual work and disciplines are useless because weíre all just robots responding to our programming--we canít really do anything on our own. And besides, thereís nothing that needs to be done anyway--except wake up to the fact that weíre robots. But itís also true that a person must make monumental spiritual efforts to have any hope of becoming something more, of discovering oneís True Self. Because the experience of Reality, of Truth, is a tremendous shock. In order to make use of it, or even survive it, you need to prepare yourself. You need to be vaccinated for that dimension."