Alfred Pulyan

Letters from a
Zen Master

Sept. 6, 1960

Dear Dick,


This won’t do you know! (By the way how old are you?) What won’t do? Well, this horsing about as to what I am, what I can do & so on & so on! “Your plans,” “your system,” & so on!!!
If only we could get down to the absolute friendship I asked, then all this by-play might be avoided. That does means plain speaking & not “easing into an acquaintanceship.”
If you call me a lousy son-of-a-bitch, an authoritarian snob, a hopeless paranoiac then that is fine, excellent -- but the dribbling, hopeless, piddling dialectic you favor me with is far more objectionable. You may call it polite & think you are behaving yourself admirably, but it is of no use in our task. I have got something -- all that man can get on this earth most probably -- and my job & your job is to transfer it from me to you. O.K. Here is Alfred Ralph Pulyan -- guinea-pig. How are we to extract it from him? It is otherwise called “the transmission.”


Now in order to get you out of this weary, dreary back-and-forth, naturally I try to find your reaction & to get you to express it, I also relate my experiences with others, & so forth -- all so as to throw enough stuff so that you will get an inkling of the position.

I do not of course betray confidences or names but I do speak “generally” as here.


For example today I got a letter from a man who says he began to “pierce the darkness” about a year ago & says truth is in Zen, Buddhism, Theosophy, Rosicrucianism, Quabalah etc. & wants to teach me. He says I doubt my own capabilities & no doubt I will never meet “a truly awakened one.”

Question -- can I do anything here? (We never really know.) Well. To debase and debauch the wonder I know so well is impossible, yet I cannot say straight out to him: “I am one of these truly awakened ones,” although I can imagine ways in which I could have more of what I have. I have met quite a number of “truly awakened” ones, but never so advanced as my own teacher who lives near me & is as unknown as any of us here. The Buddha, Gautama missed much of the physical side for example & even Zen does not stress it (although the Zen Masters I have met had splendidly flexible bodies & quick reflexes). Any evidence of “pride” or “superiority” of course damns the person at once -- the Master’s “authority” is lent to him by the student FOR A PURPOSE, it is delegated, it is not welcome to the Master who earnestly hopes for the day the monk will dig him in the ribs & they will converse arm in arm about other things . It is a surgeon’s job, but more thankless.

Now as to this case. Mention of particularly “occult” societies is a warning signal. I have not met a person “awakened” by some of these, although numbers of people DO get a sort of mental awakening wherein they see the “oneness” of things. It is good -- but it is the cake without the icing, they do not know the One as you and I could know one another. Nothing less will do!! Note my exact words. They are those of DeGama in 1540 & of Jesus in AD30 -- or indeed of any “truly awakened” person. Some correspondents say they are spending their lives in a search for “St. Germain”!!!!! O.K. They will sooner find--- (but invent your own simile). Others say they are Adepts of the Fifth Ray & Masters of the Spheres. (And so compensate for a depressing life!)

So I ask him who his teacher was, but have little hope here.


A maiden lady believing everything can be done through deliberate ESP. Says she know cases where people do it in business for a good living. Says mystical glimpses give people no right to be authorities. Etc. etc.

The word “authority” is based on the idea of learning things as in astronomy, engineering, etc. etc--- & the “mystical glimpses” is a tricky way of referring to satori which is SOMETHING QUITE OTHERWISE. The “glimpse” is feeling, satori is knowledge & more -- ESP is a “do-it-yourself” technique & in any case is ego’s way of bloating himself as big as an ox to try to be something. No hope of “getting there” by heightened perceptions or ESP -- it must be by awareness OF awareness, not awareness of thoughts & things. It is characteristic evasion & under pressure she will try every trick in the book & a flood of dialectics. She wants a boy friend! Note -- this is one of the “occupational hazards” of the therapist (if you can call our work a therapy, which it includes and resembles).


A letter from somebody called Richard.

Seems a nice enough fellow, crazy, anxious on the one hand not to frighten me away & on the other pretty blah, blah.

Tells me “I must know a lot more about you.” Momentary feeling is “go and f--- yourself. What do you expect for .04?” [a stamp] & then I say, “Down Fido! After all he is entitled to be a sceptic. You were one yourself, Alfred, & how!”

I was a lulu all right -- far more of a smart aleck than you, indeed poisonous. Yet my friend did the job. Glory, hallelujah! I really didn’t deserve it. So why should I get proud? But it is an effort!

Wants to know what happens if body & mind disappear?

Answer -- you will be dead, my bucko, as you will discover one day! Why do they say such stoopid things? Oh well, maybe he had better come & see me one day -- not for “work” -- but to see that body & mind are still around!! (Make an appointment first -- & not yet awhile.) Mail work is as good as personal work -- probably better.

Evidently Richard is a bit on the occult or magical side -- what the hell do they expect -- levitation? The real magic which is a complete reversal of everything never occurs to these numskulls. As for “we are equal” this may be false in one way. People vary in “accessibility.” Some attain in 30 minutes, others take year of backbreaking & heartbreaking “work.” But Richard wants to go to the “heart of things.” He is probably going -- nowhere.

“Your system” he keeps saying! “Your system”!! I sell nothing, & everything is spontaneous. In Zen it is not the koan but another & more personal factor that does the trick. Meditation is a device to keep the boys out of mischief for awhile. (P.S. It doesn’t succeed nowadays. They set out & have big feasts & go after the chicks with the slanted eyes.)

It is his whole life, his whole health & happiness & the God-forsaken idiot is going to throw it away by ungenerous, piddling, unfriendly, ... communications. I could be sad if it wasn’t happening all the time. Evidently doesn’t trust his friend Mac (if he is a friend) & is of a grudging, constipated mentality incapable of much fine feeling or “greatness.” Some seed fell on good ground, some on stony soil, some by the wayside --

What will happen? Doubtful. He could “get there” but he is still going around “judging” & “deciding.” Since the essence of our work is to abandon this final line of defense of the ego where can the change occur? What do I (ARP) matter? If I were Oral Roberts, Walt Disney or a bum hopping freights it is all the same. Our aim is NOT the “accidentals.” We shall see.


A “Scientologist.” He has a “spirit” that has lived for 74 trillion years & has 2 trillion to go (on the “average” -- what average?). During this time he “plays games” & after that he gracefully flops into Infinite Mind (unless it sidesteps with a shudder). His “thetan” or spirit or “self” can detach itself from the body & live without it (or at least that is his “ideal” -- he has not quite reached it yet). Nor can he yet read books in distant libraries (not enough ESP?). He is “self-determined,” completely so. In fact he is invulnerable & inaccessible -- unless life teaches him a sad lesson. I have known Scientologists however who were more accessible (one wrote: “now I see myself, silly, fatuous ...”) but it is rare.

All these things are modes of ego.



Now as regards yourself & your letter.

You want a process that “enhances.” What does that mean -- gives you joy & pleasure. This will NOT!

What do you want to know about me before you start “work”? How can you know? There is no “aim” & no “system.”

From my side however I am undertaking a long & difficult job which will add to my gray hairs. I am taking a bright child almost, still green behind the ears, and trying to show something of deep -- what shall I say of the highest feelings? -- “culture” maybe, but all words are wrong of course. Anyway the current cynicism & world weariness is no use here. You must somehow pitch yourself pretty high before this comes to you. You may deceive or cajole me, but not God.

I shall expect you to answer promptly & to do as you are told, also to cut out other similar work entirely & not read any books on this general subject (unless I happen to suggest one). Also send me a stamped addressed envelope. It will be unpleasant, frustrating, disagreeable, annoying--- (so is growing up anyway). Afterwards you will be a human being & understand many things.

The alternative is something (an average life) which will seem normal to you no doubt, but which from my present point of view is unthinkable. Nevertheless we can part in the most friendly manner & nothing has been lost.




“Personality” which derives its characteristic “flavor” from memory content (both mental & physical “memories” or “habits”) -- AND WHICH IS THEREFORE LARGELY “ACCIDENTAL” -- is not the part of you we have to work with, nor the part of me that works with you. However we have to use words & we have to pass through the mind of course. Now the mind like everything in this world of ours is strictly bipolar, dual. An obvious doublet is good-bad. (There are thousands upon thousands since the mind splits everything It is the way of reasoning, the YES-NO method. Light-dark, few-many, up-down, long-short, being-nonbeing, something-nothing, wise-foolish ..... ) Thus it is idle to hope to “improve” personality since the side we show implies the side we suppress. However we can decide not to put any more disgusting junk into our memory-box, there is sufficient already.

Consciousness or awareness is pure but mixed up with (normally) some thought or perception (yoga tries to free it, but it is actually the ego trying to free the ego & it leads maybe to a “feeling” experience but not to “knowledge”).

We must accept our dual nature, like the vine winding round the tree.


If the student gets “caught” in personality (nothing unusual in a world where it is happening all day long -- every word is weighed to see if it is a “slight” or an ego-bruise) then he will start (or try to start) an old-fashioned interminable argument (“You were being needlessly rude,” “I didn’t mean it the way you think,” “I want to be helped up not knocked down,” “You are a fine one to talk of ego, you have an interesting amount yourself,” “I want to learn something, not to have everything questioned,” “Can’t we get together somehow?” “Communication is breaking down”) -- almost connubial (but not so snide!).

Actually this is all very silly & is avoided even in business circles where “everything goes,” if it is said with a smile, e.g. “You old crook!” Ego is very sensitive to words (e.g. if the waiter says “Not that fork, Sir”).

But when ego is really threatened -- then take cover --- the place will be in shambles.

No wonder so few attain to “life.” (And so many use push-button or internal methods like magic, occultism, etc. etc. where one deceives oneself as long as possible in wild [end of sentence not readable].

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