More About the Group


By Nanzo

During the course of our lives, the more highly sensitive among us will face occasions which compel the asking of those questions dealing with life’s ultimate meaning and purpose. A young person at the dawn of adulthood, pondering over the long future ahead, will ask whether a particular course of action – marriage, career, pursuit of wealth and fame – is ultimately worth the time and investment. Will these things bring happiness, or a lifetime of headaches? Does their achievement make one the master of one’s destiny, or the pawn of destiny?

A negative answer may cause an identity crisis. The questioner might ask: Who am I? For others, adversities such as poor health, accidents, sudden changes in social or financial status, or the loss of a loved one will put them in an introspective frame of mind. Such people will ask whether their chosen priorities were the correct ones to make. They are confronted by their own mortality – hit with the reality that their lives are merely an interlude. For the first time in their lives they will ask themselves: Where did I come from? Where am I going after death?

Still others have become disillusioned with conventional religion. The answers provided by Sunday school and catechism class do not satisfy; they are dogmatic and ring hollow. Likewise, answers found through the scientific method seem inadequate. Science provides a conceptual framework for understanding the manifested, phenomenal world, but does it give us knowledge of the Real? Is real knowledge explainable through conceptual thought?

Perhaps there is an unmanifested, non-phenomenal reality not accessible to the methods of scientific analysis. Many of those who find the answers of science and conventional faith lacking will take a look at systems from the East, such as Zen and Yoga, or the West, such as Gnosticism. Their search will lead to the study of ancient and contemporary philosophers, sages, and mystics who claimed to have found enlightenment. An inner restlessness for an ultimate answer pervades their being. They are seekers after the Truth.

The Self-Inquiry Group at DV8 provides a forum for those interested in pursuing the deeper questions of life. It comprises a non-sectarian, non-dogmatic group of seekers in search of self-definition. The underlying principle for the group consists of the belief that all knowledge is incomplete until the “knower” or experiencer is identified.

This is not a novel idea. In ancient times, Socrates, through his method of inquiry, sought to show his students that what they thought they knew, they in fact did NOT know. His method consisted of questioning the assumptions of those who thought knew answers to various problems. The form of philosophic inquiry practiced by Socrates has been called the method of “learned ignorance.” His famous injunction was to first “know thyself.”

The Socratic method contains a paradox: by discovering what is not real, one becomes open to the truly Real. A contemporary western Zen master, Richard Rose, taught that one had to “retreat from untruth” by questioning one’s beliefs. In this way, a person could find inner inconsistencies impeding clear thinking. Rose believed one couldn’t define the truth discursively, but rather, had to experience the Truth directly. Rather than learning the answer, one had to become the answer. This is the psychology behind the use of the Zen koan. Other philosophic and metaphysical systems employ variations of this “negative” approach to self-definition.

The format of the Self-Inquiry Group consists of a controlled form of questioning. A monitor runs the group and acts as facilitator, selects the topic for discussion, keeps order, and uses the questioning to help participants examine their own thinking. Each participant will be given the opportunity to answer the topic question. All other participants are then encouraged to ask questions to those responding to the topic question.

The purpose behind this controlled form of questioning is to discover our ultimate, real Self. Questions asked do not involve dispensing advice, but instead are aimed at helping others “go within” to find answers. The great value of this method is that the whole group acts as a “mirror” for those answering the questions. A good question can provide insight to the person being asked. We ask questions that might never have been asked by the participants individually on their own. By doing so, we can expedite our search for self-definition.

The Self-Inquiry Group of Greensburg meets at the DV8 Espresso Bar and Art Gallery, located at 208 South Pennsylvania Avenue, near the Post Office and Library. It is a casual, friendly setting, with good coffee and a variety of teas available. We have attracted participants whose interests range from Yoga, Zen, esoteric philosophy, Buddhist meditation, as well as the contemplative mystical traditions of the major religions, metaphysics, and gnosticism. All those looking for deeper answers to life’s questions are welcome. But be warned – this is a group for serious seekers. We do not engage in idle chitchat, go on political rants, or flaunt opinions. Finding self-definition is possible in our lifetime, and our group attempts to promote an intensity of effort towards achieving that goal.