By all accounts, David Scoma is on fire right now. I don’t know why or how long it will last, but if you get a chance to see him, then do it. By some combination of grace, good luck and talent, several of his students have had breakthroughs. I couldn’t tell you if they are “big E” enlightened, but whatever happened was certainly worth their time and effort. I recommend you check out the 2016 interview I did with David Scoma on the Journals of Spiritual Discovery podcast.
Several years ago David Scoma and I exchanged a number of emails about filmmaking before one of those “by the way, I have a website” moments occurred that reveals another aspect of a person. The website in this case, JustPerception.net, was packed with David’s cutting observations on the spiritual search. While I haven’t worked with David as a student, I find him accessible and capable of taking one’s inquiry as far as they want to go. Listening to his session from the Enlightenment and Grace conference made me realize he is one of a handful of living, straight-talking spiritual teachers whose wisdom rests in the experience of death.
Since I first interviewed David Scoma in 2009, he has devoted more time to spiritual counseling, and is now working full time to help others. He does charge for his time, though, which makes him unusual in my list of recommended teachers. David Scoma distinguishes between his efforts and the grace that befalls at times. He describes this more fully in our podcast interview.
Here is the original email interview I conducted in 2009. David has recently pointed out that much of the material regarding the Nautilus process has changed in the following years:
SN: How old are you?
David Scoma: I turned forty in October of 2009.
SN: I know you live in Florida. Do you mind if we reveal what town?
DS: I live in Central Florida – on the outskirts of Orlando.
SN: I see you’re familiar with Bernadette Roberts and Richard Rose. Did their work play a role in your search? What teachers and writings were most influential in your search?
DS: Bernadette Roberts was a big help while I was still a seeker. That is because part of the trajectory covered in this life was also the Dark Night of the Senses and The Dark Night of the Soul described and detailed by John of the Cross in his poems and commentaries. Bernadette had obviously lived through that terrain and far more, and she knew what she was talking about and how to put it into words. In my case, I only realized that’s what I’d been through once the Nights were all over. That’s when I saw the parallels – once I revisited the Spanish Mystics after the fact. So I’d have to say that John and Teresa were huge for me – as was Therese, the Little Flower, who also suffered through the Dark Nights rather heroically and considered the Spanish Mystics her spiritual mentors as a result. Therese’s story is often looked upon unrealistically, like a spiritual fairy tale, so one has to be cautious when reading or researching accounts about her life. But Therese is probably one of the best early examples I encountered of a laser-like purity of intent, the importance of total surrender, and the true role of Grace. Bernadette Roberts’ account, not only of the Nights but also what happened to her following that time, was very instructive because it was so contemporary, and so easy to relate to.
I did not discover Richard Rose until after the fact, the same with Franklin Merrell-Wolff, so unfortunately I cannot speak to how their writings and teachings came across from a seeking point of view. However, I can say that both of those gentlemen in their own ways were invaluably helpful during the wild months after awakening when I did finally run across their books. My seeking period, really, was at the end of the line – during the four years in between the Night of Soul and the realization. Within that timespan, I pretty much read everything I could get my hands on. To be quite frank, when I look back on it now, the material I stumbled upon during those last years wasn’t very helpful at all.
SN: What year was your experience?
DS: The realization took place in 2005.
SN: Do you consider yourself a teacher?
DS: At first, I would not have considered myself a teacher. The reason for this is because my actual profession is in the field of education, and there was such a big difference initially between the way I would approach my classes at work when compared to how I would talk to seekers about awakening. The reason I do consider myself in the ‘role’ of a teacher these days is because now, in fact, there is very little difference anymore between what happens in my professional communication classes for work and what happens when I talk to seekers. In other words, a lot of cross-pollination has been taking place in the later years which wasn’t there at the start. I will talk to seekers about aspects of deconstructing human communication patterns, and alternately, in my college courses, I will sneak in stuff about watching the mind and taking a step back from personality traits. The teaching style is also very similar now in both settings, at least in terms of conveyance. Having a professional teaching background has ended up helping a lot when it comes to framing and trying to get this material across to seekers. As time continued to pass following the realization, it just seemed natural to start putting those teaching tools and techniques to use outside of work through the writings, or recordings, or particularly in dealing with those who contacted me about spirituality. But really, that ‘teaching’ function or ideal has to do primarily with the mechanics of how the material is said, or communicated, or demonstrated on this end – and very little else. In other words, it all boils down to one thing alone – the seekers who contact me. They are the ones who need to do the often difficult work involved in deconstructing themselves. They have to play out that role fully, with deep intent – in order to have a shot at finally realizing that there’s no one there at all to do any work in the first place. And that shot at realization, of course, is ultimately up to the universe.
SN: How long after your realization did you start meeting with people?
DS: I ran into someone I’d known for decades just about the same time as the realization – someone whom I’d spoken to years earlier about various life issues. Within a couple of months, he had – through his persistence – gotten me to start discussing spiritual matters with him. Over the course of the next couple of years, he then began bringing people that he knew, or encountered, to meet me – and we would all talk together at bookstores and coffee shops. It just continued from there. Early on during that time, I had posted some writings online, and as a result I’d started to hear from people via the net. Those discussions continued through email and phone conversations in a very parallel way to what I was talking about in the live settings, so it all just sort of sprung up organically. These encounters have taken place through phone calls, email exchanges, live settings or a combination of the three. There have been many live meetings in various formats since the initial bookstore/coffeehouse days. Typically, if a person in the vicinity gets in contact with me, it usually moves (after some email or phone exchanges ) into a series of live one-on-one meetings. If they are amiable to it, I will then introduce them to others in a larger group format when those sessions are going. Currently – since the start of this year – the work has gone more in direction of speaking with individuals rather than with a live local group, mostly because people have found it much easier in these particular times with their schedules to get regular sessions with me on their own or over the phone. And there have been a lot more inquiries from out of state and from different countries, or even situations where I am travelling to speak with groups which other people have started. I see both of those as trends that will probably continue to play out significantly in the upcoming years. I do also try to facilitate group work with the long distance inquiries. For example, when I am speaking with seekers in different parts of the country, I try to put them in contact with each other as well so that they can bounce the material off some other people. Then we will get into a conference call situation with a collection of those participants and continue the dialog in that manner, which has been very effective given the distances involved.
SN: Have any of your students found an end to their search?
DS: As of now, five students have completed the search.
SN: Are you Jed McKenna?
DS: No, I am not.
SN: There is a lot of material on your website, though you stopped writing for it in January of ’09. I get the feel that the written work is almost a preliminary, though, and the real work is the Nautilus process. In terms of you as a teacher, is the face-to-face work where it’s at?
DS: Your observation about the original website is right on. ‘Without A Perceiver’ initially had an extremely narrow aim. When I first started writing, I had only one objective. There were elements involved in awakening – stark, intense elements – which I had never once even heard of – let alone considered potentials inherent in the buildup to enlightenment (I am speaking now of the final falling away, not the Dark Nights). In other words, the chance that there could be a stark finale was not clearly spelled out during my time as a seeker – and it sure would’ve been nice to have had some warning. The first impulse I had upon recovering was to warn as many seekers as I possibly could – to jump up onto the roof with a bullhorn and just start screaming “BEWARE!” Yes, the discovery was freedom – don’t get me wrong. However, certain portions of that final unfolding were so overpowering, that initially those raw portions were all I was moved to try and convey. I attempted to cover the harsher aspects from as many angles as I possibly could over the years online- even to overexposure. It was never supposed to be a balanced teaching site – I’d initially set the webpage up to act as a big warning sign and nothing more. The stark stuff was NEVER all I had to say in a teaching situation – by far. But because the online writing was so narrow, there were people who would visit the site, read a few words, and simply assume that I was Nihilism Incarnate. And therefore all I must have to say as a teacher must merely be born from some twisted pathology and had nothing at all to do with enlightenment. That is not the case at all. So the instructional items that I did put onto that site served the function you pointed to; examples meant to give people an idea of what I would say in a teaching situation. And at that point, yes, Nautilus was totally based upon the direct interactions with me which would then take place either in person, or through phone and email contact. By the start of ’09, it was just felt on this end that as much as possible had been done to fulfill the original aim of ‘Without A Perceiver’, and so that facet of the project was brought to a close.
A lot of people come to the site who might never end up directly interacting with me, and that consideration has been taken into account. So some of the more direct instructional content is now in the initial stages of being put online. That material is being presented in a format that can stand alone from the original site, and will be based solely upon the didactic elements and practical application aspects of Nautilus.
SN: Really, are you Jed McKenna?
DS: No. I really am not Jed McKenna.
But I get asked that question all the time – either directly or through (not so) subtle inferences and innuendos. In some ways, I guess I understand why people would think that. In other ways, it totally baffles me. When Wisefool Press put my blurb on the back of Spiritual Warfare, I thought that would be the end of it. I figured (wrongly) that no one would believe the mystery author would be dumb enough after so much secrecy to then go and endorse his own book using his real name. But that just brought EVEN MORE suspicion my way. “He put his name back there to throw us off track…” etc. Very tiresome. People will play any game to keep from pulling themselves apart. Ultimately, I think the Jed McKenna postulations come from a few similarities in our writing styles and the often parallel focus – at least in my initial material – on the starker elements of enlightenment. But the truth is, I’d never even heard of him until a few years back when a student sent me a copy of the audiobooks. And anyone who gets to know who I am in person for, like, half an hour or so, pretty much throws that whole notion right out the window very quickly – even if they did believe it before spending time with me. I am definitely not clever enough to successfully pull off a stunt like that, and would rather spend my time and energy in other ways. Hopefully, my explanation here – in this particular setting – will help put the whole matter to bed (though I sincerely doubt it).
SN: Would you say you have a “system” and, if so, can you describe it?
DS: Yes. It is called Nautilus. The name is really a blanket term covering numerous aspects of the whole endeavor under one umbrella. Nautilus can be summarized in the following way:
“Ignore what you are not until it kills you.”
That phrase – the content and intention of the sentiment as a whole, as well as each individual word – goes a long way toward getting across the core of what Nautilus is all about. It also points to how Nautilus is implemented, the way it is accomplished, and where this entire venture is aimed: toward the recognition and realization of what is actually going on here – the direct discovery of one’s true nature.
There are a few aspects in play all at once, especially at the start. This begins with getting a seeker to engage and deconstruct their initial motive for being on the path in the first place. A huge obstacle is rooted in the fact that people are scared. But what that shapes into is this notion that people think they want enlightenment in order to escape in some way, or to make everything “OK” in their dreamscape. In actuality, I am convinced that most people do not know what they want at all – however, they are pretty damn certain that what they’re encountering in their current everyday lives ain’t it. Adding to that, they often feel an ‘inner’ call – which they tend to at some point translate as a movement to look for answers. Yet what they’ve usually been promised in the form of an ‘answer’ – or enlightenment – is often totally immature, unrealistic, and juvenile. So the first aim of Nautilus is to address all of that, and get people to seriously look at their motives and their intent. Motive and intent are huge keys. Both are recurring touchstones in Nautilus, and this initial facing of one’s need for being on a ‘path’ is the first of many times that the two are utilized along the way. Having a seeker look at their aims in this way is usually a far tougher task than they initially realize – but it is essential. It shows that when it comes to the direct realization of truth, they have often been heading in the opposite direction – and that demonstrates to them important aspects about the nature of delusion, expectations and faulty reasoning. All of the stuff that got them so tied up in the first place. More importantly, this initial untangling displays the means of deconstruction necessary to turn everything around; and that is the process of negation.
From there, this is then applied to the processes of the mind, feelings, body, and so forth right on down the line – leading a student to see that there is nothing that cannot be pulled apart when it comes to the projection of identity. This is combined with exploring just how strong and potent the sensory experiences of a person’s life are in tying one to thoughts – drawing attention and identification into the illusory ego and the personality structure. In other words, even if a seeker starts to get some distance from the processes of the mind, they are often not as aware of just how caught up they still are in sensory matters. A great deal of stress is eventually placed on that area because when it comes to the body, it is usually not enough to just deconstruct thought or feelings alone. The dismantling of the supposed five senses has to be taken on as well – before moving forward.
When it comes to the realization of Truth, virtually the entire set-up in the so-called spiritual marketplace is a bloody mess. That atmosphere almost always encourages people to move toward more aggrandizement, deeper beliefs, better living, healthier relationships – the baubles of ego. And I am not saying any of that is wrong: it cannot be other than perfect. But it is definitely the landscape of the dream, the pulse of delusion. And in all honesty, those items are what I believe most characters playing the role of ‘seeker’ truly want or are being led toward – not enlightenment at any cost, or to die while alive. Yet even the way that the “happier life solutions” are typically offered in the marketplace rarely aims a seeker in the direction of proper integrated living (let alone toward enlightenment). Nautilus points toward the discovery of Truth directly – non-dual awareness on a continual basis. For there to be a possible shot of that realization taking place in cognizance (or really, even to make the move toward a fully integrated life) a seeker must pull apart ALL of their false identity. Yes, it is all the doing of the universe, and yes, it can happen in any way under the sun, and yes: ultimately, there is nobody doing anything. But in the story, that dirty word ‘work’ comes strongly into play for some time – in order to finally realize once you fall off the pathless path that it is all happening automatically. The universe is continually giving you cues. And you notice the cues – if it’s time – because you are paying attention. One shows the universe one’s intent through taking this seriously – more seriously than a person has ever taken anything before. And you can’t be any more serious than to consciously allow, accept, and not resist the total deconstruction involved on the road toward awakening – which truly dissects every aspect of one’s identity until the universe finally consumes ‘you’. Nautilus is nothing other than the serious engagement of this pulling apart – demonstrating a dedication to completely ignore what one is not. This move toward total negation has the potential to place one into an eventual depth of surrender that is so full, so unreserved, and so completely unguarded, that what is True has a chance to explode through – blowing apart the entire faulty structure once and for all.
SN: What’s the chief block of those who come to work with you?
DS: The biggest block is that seekers, despite what they usually say to the contrary, almost never want Truth or enlightenment at any cost. And just as big a block – if not bigger – is the fact that even fewer seekers have any sort of an informed grasp on what enlightenment actually is. They don’t realize that the heart of enlightenment is to die while alive. Because enlightenment will be the direct discovery of their true non-identity, so to speak. People who are totally identified with their fictitious personalities are terrified to know who and what they truly are. Too much is at stake for their sense of a separate self – which they have been investing in all their lives through their identification with thoughts, patterns, and habits. That fear has rarely been examined by them in a way which has the potential to show that it is ultimately not real, and is often based upon a person’s intuited lack of control over anything at all – or their sensing of the fact that nothing is at ‘their’ core. By addressing that fear seriously, right from the start, there is a chance to perhaps get beneath some layers. This can happen when one looks at one’s plight with honesty, and starts to see the true objective far more realistically. If you want to be real, you’ve got to be realistic.
SN: What’s your feeling on charging students money for meetings, talks, and such?
DS: I do not charge anyone for discussing spiritual matters or for working with me in any way. I never have, and I never will.
SN: “But I will not say the words of the creed ever again.” You wrote this in the essay “Creed.” Would you say a little more about that?
DS: Sure. The article in question talks about the final falling away. This happened out of time, but within the story it was during the recitation of the Apostle’s Creed at a Mass. What happened is described as best as I could in that piece, but in essence, it felt as if on the surface level, I’d heard – and then ‘experienced’ – what was being communicated at the heart of the Creed – when the separation fell away, and then everything fell away.
When it comes to formal structured prayer, people often just spew out words unconsciously. And the majority of those words in the Creed are taken strictly as literal beliefs – i.e., not as something that the heart of – the true core of – can be Known directly. In that moment/ non-moment, for ‘me’ that Truth no longer had anything to do with thoughts or beliefs. But rather, IT was Known and Become. And IT didn’t have anything to do with words or beliefs anymore from that point forward. So one of the residual effects of that was that I didn’t say the Creed anymore at Mass – there was no longer a need. In a lot of ways it was the end of formal religious practice as a whole, though I still attended in order to hear the Gospel readings in light of the realization – which was fascinating. But in terms of the Creed, hollow words couldn’t capture IT, so I found that I’d prefer not to say the prayer at all. I would often be moved during that prayer to go outside away from people, and just be still to reflect upon the emptiness of the realization instead. Why use puny words when IT Abounds? That is what I was attempting to express with those sentiments.
SN: So what’s the deal with Donnie Darko?
DS: As for Donnie Darko vs American Beauty, I actually do think American Beauty is right at the top – I totally and completely love that film. Even beyond the Cosmic Consciousness bag-dance – Ricky Fitts for me was probably the first ‘awake’ish character I’d encountered in a film, and it was at a key time in the search. Ultimately, tho, Donnie Darko wins for me – and not just because of the predestination or the ending, but because it is so chock full of seeking and Truth-related one liners. To name only a few: “Every living creature on this earth dies alone”, “Why are you wearing that stupid man suit?”, “For my entire life, I was a victim of my own fear”, “If God controls time, then all time is pre-decided”, “I’d like to tell you a story about a young man who’s life was destroyed by the instruments of fear”, “I can show you the way”, “The search for God is absurd? / It is if everyone dies alone”, “I hope that when the world comes to an end, I can breathe a sigh of relief – because there will be so much to look forward to” and, of course, “Wake Up”. So when it comes to my stance on Donnie Darko, Shawn, allow me to quote the tag line from your American Beauty: “Look Closer.”
Visit JustPerception.net for more from David Scoma.