Bart Marshall is an old acquaintance from my days with the Self Knowledge Symposium. Back then, I was in my early twenties and considered him one of the “old guys” (like I am now!). I recall three things about Bart. One, that I would never want to get into a fight with him; two, that he seemed hopelessly stuck in the spider’s web of daily life; and three (probably related to the first), he could be deadly serious.
Now, let’s jump a dozen years down the road. I hear that Bart’s had a spiritual realization. It happens that I’m filming Closer Than Close, so I drive down to Raleigh for a visit. It’s obvious that’s he’s changed. Not as in he’s wearing white robes and reciting poetry. Of course, the words he says are different, but it’s more what he doesn’t say. The change is more in the quiet that fills the room.
Sometimes I think of enlightened people as being cored out like an apple, emptied. It’s as if their body is a beach and a great, silent ocean pulls at them from inside with its tides. If you’re able to quiet your self, you can hear that as well. Without a doubt, Bart experienced something that settled his soul.
Here’s what he calls his “short answer” regarding what he experienced:
In August 2004 something happened that corrected a basic mistake in perception I’d lived with all my life. Prior to this occurrence I thought I was an individual consciousness experiencing an infinitely large, infinitely old, external universe of real objects. What I discovered, however, is that the consciousness I mistakenly perceived as belonging to an individual (Me), is in actuality God consciousness, the One consciousness, and that Me, the universe and everything in it are vague, ephemeral thought-forms appearing in and out of emptiness in a timeless, spaceless Now.
Bart has a gift for saying things simply, yet fully. Here’s what he says about success in the spiritual search:
I think the key is intent. If a seeker’s intent is to become the Truth at all costs, then it will happen. All the reading and practices we involve ourselves with are useful only to the extent that they build intent. If a burning desire for enlightenment is not present, no amount of meditation and practices will help. If it is present, no meditation or practices are necessary. Paradoxically, this burning desire for Truth can’t be a reaction against a life we object to and are dissatisfied with. It must be in conjunction with an immense gratitude for what we have been given, with a “surrender” that asks for no divine rescue or special mercies. When a person who wants Truth more than life falls in love with what is, it happens.
He’s not afraid to talk about what happened, but doesn’t spend a lot of time talking about it, either:
After fooling around with spiritual matters for some 37 years, a conclusive experience occurred last August that finally settled things. My questions vanished and the spiritual search came to an end. During those 37 years I read a lot of books and turned over a lot of rocks, but three teachers stand out.
I met Richard Rose 15 years ago and from then on his teachings became the foundation of my spiritual search. About ten years ago I was blown away by Nisargadatta’s book, I Am That, and it became my “bible.” Five years ago I started reading Douglas Harding and dabbling with his experiments, then last year  attended a workshop with him in England. On the plane ride home from that workshop the experience occurred. Only it was not an experience. It was a non-experience experience. There was no one there to have an experience.
So if I wasn’t there how come I have memories of it and can talk about it? I don’t know. It’s just one more aspect of the mystery. And it’s all mystery. Anything that’s not mystery is misunderstood. As soon as I think I know anything, I’ve strayed into error.
Here’s a fellow who had a wife, kids, mortgage, job, doubts, distractions, successes, and failures — everyday battles that you and I can relate to — and found something. Now he’s trying to reach out to a few people and be of help.
See the SelfInquiry.org site for contact info as well as several of Bart’s articles.
Bart also has a gift for the written word. His first book is The Perennial Way: New English Versions of Yoga Sutras, Dhammapada, Heart Sutra, Astavakra Gita, Faith Mind Sutra, and Tao Te Ching. The Perennial Way contains six refreshing and poignant translations of spiritual classics. Here’s a video with Bart reading some lines from the Faith Mind Sutra:
Bart Marshall’s newest book is Christ Sutras: The complete sayings of Jesus from all sources arranged into sermons. It is a remarkable compilation of sayings of Jesus from the New Testament as well as various Apocrypha compiled in a presentation that allows a new experience of these ancient words.