The Realization of Richard Rose
Excerpted from the transcription of Richard Rose’s April 28, 1984, lecture titled Peace of Mind in Spite of Success, delivered in Akron, Ohio.
QUESTION: Would you describe your experience?
ROSE: What do you think it will do?
Q: I would just like to know.
ROSE: I don’t mind talking about it — but it could be fairy tales. It’s something I can’t validate for you. And I don’t know that it’s something that somebody should copy.
The bad thing about — it’s just like reincarnation. Many of the teachers of the East, when you approach them about the idea of reincarnation, to them it immediately is an excuse for procrastination. This is one of the dangers of it — if you become convinced, or if enough people tell you that there is such a thing as reincarnation.
I had a Rosicrucian write to me one time, and he said, “Oh, you’re fretting about self-definition. You’ve got hundreds of lifetimes ahead of you.” Now how does he know that? How could he presuppose that there were hundreds of lifetimes? He couldn’t remember the last one, perhaps. Again, I say some people have. But it’s more or less — the ones that have, it’s more like a dim scene or like something you’d see in a movie. Not with really specific details.
But what happened was — at different times, I started on this rather actively — I started off in a seminary, and I came to the conclusion that the people there were also hypocrites — running an institution that was not necessarily truth-directed. So I checked out after a while. And I went back to high school and went to a couple years of college and studied chemistry.
Then I decided that a lot of this stuff was nonsense, and it would just be in the road of me putting full time into studying psychology. I didn’t know what door to go to, so I started off through the psychological door. Then I ran into some books on raja yoga. And I tried everything. I lived a totally ascetic type of life. I quit eating meat. I didn’t smoke, I didn’t drink coffee, I stood on my head a bit and sat in poses and that sort of thing.
And after a few years went by, it seemed like utter nonsense. And sometimes I would decide to throw it all over. I would have gotten drunk, but my body wouldn’t stand it. So back to the drawing board. Or I’d think the smart thing for me to do before all my hair falls out is to hunt a girl up and get married, because that’ s the pattern in this rat race, and I might as well at least give some children a chance to do something.
So I’d go out and I’d look for a girl, and she’d tell me off. There was some guiding power there all the time, protecting me, but I didn’t have sense enough myself, letting something else get in the road.
But anyhow, I was in a high state of frustration at different times, because I felt I was a real fool. I had no tangibles — when you deal in this, there is nothing tangible to go by, that you’re making any step at all. You’re just struggling like a worm underneath somebody’s foot, that’s all. And the exigencies of time and life are the feet.
But I kept at it. I went out to Seattle, Washington with the idea of getting married. Again, I was going to chuck it all and get married. I’m not going to get into that part of it, because it’s a nasty story. I didn’t get married. The girl and I fell out. I was staying in a Japanese hotel out there, and I went back to the hotel. I had a job, and I worked every day, and every evening I would come home from work and get into this posture with my feet under me and sit there and think. The only meditation is what you devise for yourself. The best meditation is just to look at yourself: “Why did I think this?” or “What should I do more dynamically tomorrow?” And I got a pain in the top of my head. It was unbearable. And I thought, “Oh boy, three thousand miles from West Virginia, and this is where I have a stroke.” That is what I thought was coming on. Well, I went unconscious, to a degree, in that I lost the body on the bed. It was daylight yet. Because I worked at night and I was home during the day.
And I went out the window — out this hotel window — and I could see the people on the street, just as clearly as if everything were just as it was. But looking out my window, I could also see snow-covered mountains — I think they’re called the Cascade Mountains — and the next thing you know, I was above the Cascade Mountains. I was gaining altitude. And when I looked down — I was watching this all the time I was going — but when I looked down, the whole scene changed. I had lost this whole dimension. And that’s when I saw — the mountain became just piles of humans, millions, struggling, trying to get a little bit of altitude.
And then I experienced nothingness. I found oblivion. And it was really a shock. I thought, “Oh boy, you wanted the answer — and it’s nothing.” But in the middle of that, while I was doing this, while it was happening, I knew I was watching it and then I realized the watcher and in this little book I’ve written, that’s the reason for the words Psychology of the Observer [used as the title].
The scene, the view, is not the viewer. That which Is, is the viewer. If you look at your body, if you look at your progress, that isn’t you. The viewer is you: The awareness behind, all the time. That type of awareness, when you contemplate it, it’s not really consciousness. You feel — you don’t think. Awareness doesn’t imply thought. And, in some respects, the relative thought does disappear. But that awareness always remains.
And I knew, in the middle of this, that I was observing the whole thing. And that’s when I knew I was immortal. I was nothing, and I was everything — simultaneously.
Q: Was this God?
ROSE: I felt that if this is God, he’d be lonely.
Q: Was this a death experience?
ROSE: It’s death, and you don’t encourage it. It came to me one other time, and it wasn’t as traumatic because I knew what was happening. But it’s still — there’s a Zen saying: Before you have the experience, the hills are hills and the valleys are valleys; and during the experience, they are no longer hills and valleys; but once you return, again once more the hills are hills and the valleys are valleys.
In other words, you’ve got to enter into the play. This is a stage play. You’ve got to come in and assume the mask of life until you’re ready to check out. You have to eat and drink and whatever is necessary. If you’re sick, you take pills.
Rose: I didn’t have that particular feeling. As I said, I feel that something was — it may have been an anterior self; because I didn’t choose to return.
The only thing was — you know I said that I was very angry. I had an angry period from the time I was a kid until I was thirty years old about the lack of truth available to people, about the phonies.
And young people just generally quit looking. They say, “To hell with it. There are too many lies to trip over, there are too many books that are phony to read.” And they never think of looking inside themselves to find it.
And even looking inside yourself takes help. Just like I’m talking now; if that doesn’t inspire somebody to look inside themselves, I’m wasting my time. Hardly anybody does it alone. Even myself, when I was looking, I read books. I read everything I could get my hands on. But I got a surprise. None of the books told me I’d find what I found.
But I found myself back on that bed. And I wasn’t too happy about it. It was a very miserable experience coming back.
ROSE: Yes, you might call it that. The valleys are once more valleys, but you’re never quite the same. That’s the reason I hesitate to talk about it. When I first came back from Seattle, I talked with Andy’s mother and dad [i.e., Rose’s friend Bob Martin and Bob’s wife] about this happening.
And the funny thing about this is — his dad is a very extensive reader in Buddhist philosophy, and he knew a tremendous lot about books on the subject, and he had a hunch about what had happened. But his mother made a remark I’ll never forget. She was just a young one at the time — I don’t think she was over twenty years of age. She said, “Dick, I think you lost your ego.” I didn’t realize this until much later, that was the procedure — that my egos had collapsed.
Q: (Mentions the head pain.)
ROSE: I think I had help. Something worked on my head to kill me, so to speak; to kill the mundane mind. The mind has to die.
Q: What causes the pain?
ROSE: I don’t know. And I don’t know about other cases. I’ve heard just fragments of stories. Incidentally, there’s a categorization — after years and years of studying other cases and wondering why they were all so different — I found out that they aren’t different. They fall decidedly in certain categories. And if you ever run into a little book by Ramana Maharshi in which he describes Samadhi — Kevala Samadhi and Sahaja Samadhi. Kevala Samadhi is cosmic consciousness. There’s a book written by Richard Bucke, “Cosmic Consciousness,” in which he describes that experience — which is not Sahaja Samadhi.
I had the cosmic consciousness for about seven years, in my twenties. Everything was beautiful. And I realized that the world was beautiful, but I was getting ugly. I wasn’t learning anything. So I knew I had to get away from the intoxication with the mundane harmony.
The blueprint is harmonious — if you don’t mind the fact of the predators and the victims, the pageantry of eat and be eaten, in the beautiful world. Everything’s being eaten and destroyed and killed and slaughtered, etc. Still, it’s a very beautiful pattern. The grass is green in the spring because a lot of things die.
But — I think the pain [Rose is referring to the pain in his head that preceded his self-realization – Ed.] basically comes from physical reaction to the mind being taken out or disconnected from the body, that’s all.
Of course, when I tried to find somebody who knew something about it, I looked for years. I found very little mention of it except in St. John of the Cross. I don’t know how far John of the Cross went — he had an illumination when he was in prison. But a lot of people have had the different illuminations. Under stress — times of death, sometimes before a firing squad — it will happen. In times of tragedy, thinking is forced; you have to think about it, and the mind is opened up.
But there was physical pain. I got out of the body far enough — the circulation in the head might have been down, I don’t know. And people have asked me this, but I never thought to time it. I don’t know how long I was out. I was alone at the time, and —
Questioner: Was there pain when you came back into your body?
ROSE: The pain was when I was leaving. The pain got so intense that I left my body.
Q: I have astral-projected and never experienced any pain.
ROSE: See, this is something a little different I think from astral projection; because I have projected astrally and didn’t have too much trouble. But this seemed to be something tremendously different. Most astral projection, if you notice, is limited to the geography here.
Q: About losing your ego — the ego that you’re talking about is your will to survive, or your life. You left your life — something happened, and you died. That’s the difference between astral projection and this.
ROSE: The thing that I faced, number one, was — I had a lot of little, real lousy, egos that I was trying to put across at the time. But also in the process, when I was sitting there and I knew that death was approaching, I had to face the fact, very quickly, that all of a sudden I was going to be possibly zero.
In a natural death, when a person dies slowly, they go through that change. And I went through it rapidly. I accepted death, knowing that very possibly it could be zero. You have no choice. Any bit of protoplasm — animals do the same thing when they realize that they’ re going to be killed. Nature has the sedative.
Q: This was a mental thing that happened to you, and you mentally accepted the fact that you were dying. It felt reasonable to you because this is what life is about.
ROSE: Yes. The total absurdity of one and the inescapability of the other. Everything just like dominoes — the whole thing went down very rapidly.
Q: You just can’t do that on the spur of the moment; certain things have to fall into place.
ROSE: I couldn’t bring it about, no. I don’t particularly think that I’d care to. I know there’s a difference between whether I astrally stepped out of my body and went to see somebody I knew. (That would be a nice little trip, but I would say also that a bus ticket is cheaper.) It’s not as traumatic. To go through this — you can’t plan it — there’s no way you can plan it — because you’d have to put yourself in a state of mind in which you would be beyond relativity, beyond concern.
© 1978, 1984, 1985 Richard Rose. All right s reserved.
This article and additional descriptions of Richard Rose’s experience can be found at: