Richard Rose spent more than 15 years obsessed with finding the meaning of life.
He studied to be a Catholic priest, traveled from one religious or esoteric group to another, read hundreds of books and meditated an hour a day for 10 years.
In despair at 32 [actually 30], he gave up.
"I realized there was no logical reason to believe I had a soul, was anybody or was going anywhere," he said.
He was alone in Seattle, Washington at the time, and as soon as he admitted his spiritual bankruptcy a kind of mental fever took hold that lasted for nearly two days. He felt he was going insane.
Rose, now 60. said he still finds that experience difficult to describe, though he has tried in the final pages of his book The Albigen Papers. The experience washed the despair out of him and gave him the conviction that his essence was immortal.
Yet there was no special feeling of joy or beauty. It seemed to transcend sensory feeling, he said.
"It was like a great wow when everything seemed to answer itself."
Rose retured to his family farm south of Wheeling, W Va. married, raised three children and held a variety of jobs. He had attended college for a while studying to be a teacher but dropped out during the Depression of the 1930s.
As he got older be wanted to help others who were starting on the same road he had taken years before. From his reading he could now give his experience a name: cosmic consciousness.
He began to give lectures before Theosophical, Edgar Cayce and other religious groups. "It's a law of life that to get you have to give. You only learn by teaching and it reinvigorates you," he said.
Rose had an appeal to young people and many asked him to speak at colleges. Out of this evolved the TAT Foundation (for truth and transmission) and the Zen study groups. The foundation now has some 175 members, mostly in the tri-siate area and there are nearly a dozen study groups, mostly at colleges.
They don't study Zen Buddhism. The word Zen was chosen because it represents knowledge without dogma. "Zen is a language, a method of questioning your thinking," Rose said. Its maverick quality also appealed to him. The title of his book is taken from the Albigenses, the medieval heretics of France persecuted by the Catholic Church.
At the University of Pittsburgh the study group meets at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays in Room 319 of the Student Union. A typical evening may be spent discussing a book by Carlos Castaneda or intelligence or breaking habits.
The TAT Foundation arranges seminars, issues a newsletter and provides a meeting place where persons of different training and education can exchange ideas. Scientifically oriented, foundation members have a special interest in the fringe areas of science: ESP, kirlian photography, hypnotism, the effect of the mind on the body and so on.
Last summer some 130 persons attended a two-day seminar on Rose's farm. A psychiatrist talked about dreams. Rose on hypnotism, an electrical engineer on kirlian photography, a psychic on her experiences. A former IBM executive introduced the group to a value options card game he had created. Its purpose was to get people to examine their values
Another two-day seminar will begin at 1 p.m. today at the Tonidale Restaurant in Oakdale. The topics include nutrition and longevity, astrology and prediction, mental concepts and clarity and human identity. Next weekend there will be a national meeting of TAT members at Rose's farm.
A TAT group meets in Oakland, generally on the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month at University and City Ministries, 4401 Fifth Ave. The mailing address is TAT, 1686 Marshall St., Benwood, W.Va. 26031.
Those who want a particular dogma or answers to specific questions from Rose will be disappointed.
"I don't like to pose as a teacher. You're going to do people more harm if you pose as a guru. You're going to try to take them down your set of railroad tracks." he said.
"The only thing you can do is encourage people. Everyone has a separate nature and a separate path. If you plague your computer (your mind) with enough questions, if you won't give up, the computer will summon the energy to produce some sort of answer," Rose said. The answer can then be checked with persons of similar interest.
Rose admits that in the psychic field there are many charlatans. He has been at a number of seances where he knew if he put his arms around the "spirit" he could throw it out the window.
Photographs have been taken of the Indian rope trick where a boy climbs up a rope that seems suspended from the sky and then disappears. The photographs showed there was no boy or rope, Rose said.
But the interesting question to study, he said, is how the fakir can apparently hypnotize a group of people into believing in the rope and boy.
Rose thinks very highly of Zen Buddhism and the Gurdjieff-Ouspensky system. Both try to shock people into an awareness of their true nature.
Spiritual understanding cannot be learned. Rose said "You have to do it yourself. If you don't, you'll be mouthing somebody's dogma or psychology. The formula is very basic. Make a commitment, make a contract with yourself to be honest. Don't kid yourself. This is basically the study of truth, going to the truth of things."
Rose said truth cannot be approached directly. "We don't know what it is. The only way to approach the truth is to retreat from the opposite," he said.
A good way to sift out the phony cults. Rose said, is to avoid those that want money or emphasize ritual, buildings or dogma. It's not easy, he said, for "nearly all the spiritual roads are false."
The idea is to break through the primitive mind of habit, tradition, preconceptions. "I'm convinced man does not learn (in spiritual mailers), man only becomes." he said.