Just One Look

A revolutionary agitator, saboteur, and bank robber in the 60s and 70s, John Sherman was on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list for two and a half years. Captured in 1981, he served over 18 years in federal penitentiaries. In 1994, in a prison in Colorado, he spent more than a year in the fully open awareness of spiritual awakening, which collapsed suddenly and left him bereft. Three years later, shortly before his release, he found true freedom by means of an extremely simple act of attention.


With inward looking, the context in which experience arises is initially and directly changed by the act itself resulting in a subsequently less defended exposure to the feared environment (life).  In turn, many of the neuroses constructed out of the fear-based context begin to fall away because there is no longer any context to support them; on an experiential level, they become irrelevant.  Over time, this allows for the possibility of having an increasingly natural relationship with life.  (The Radical Act of Inward Looking, by Paul Freedman M.S.W., R.S.W.  Jonathan Goldberg M.S.W., R.S.W.  Jaak Reichmann M.D., FRCP(C))

JSherman_HeadshotI was born in the summer of 1942 in Camden, New Jersey, to a father and mother about whom I know little other than what I have been told by others.  When I was three or four, my mother and father split up, and I was sent to be raised by my grandmother, a Holy Ghost Pentecostal Christian, and my grandfather.  When I was about ten, my grandfather died and my mother came back to town for his funeral.  Soon thereafter, she was remarried to a sweet man, a tool and die maker, and they took me back from my grandmother.  Within a year, we moved to Southern California.  Over the coming years with him, my new stepfather gave me much attention and provided me with the basis for a philosophical outlook on life.

In 1958, when I was sixteen and in tenth grade, I stole my parents’ checkbook, booked a flight to New York with a bad check, and moved into the Plaza Hotel, where I assembled a wardrobe and other artifacts, went to a play on Broadway (J.B.), drank, ate high, and finally bought a $2,500 Patek Philippe watch in the hotel jewelry store—all paid for with bad checks from my parents checkbook (times were easier then for a child con man).  The watch proved a little too much—hotel security entered the fray, made some phone calls to California, and came to get me.  In the end, they called my grandmother in New Jersey who wired enough money to bail me out and get me a train ticket to her.

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6 Responses to Just One Look

  1. Joseph Mitchell says:

    Thank you John….What an insight!!!!…It’s not spiritual… none of that woo woo… it is psychological…so clear…so clear…so clean…so efficient …you are really onto something important here…we ARE out here…thanks again

  2. Steven Rosen says:

    I do worry that your approach leaves too much out….. all the mess which makes life poetic and the seeing through the mess to the basic state from which it arises. You say that Ramana was trapped in spiritual context which influenced his whole presentation, but this feels to me like a projection on your part….. that you have no interest in God or the Sacred or Divine Love, etc, …does that mean that Ramana had no interest in such things. And furthermore, even if Ramana’s teachings were distorted by people who crave sprituality, what about other great teachers who gave their lives to the Divine and the Divine Love from which everything arises? Sorry to be so negative, …I certainly appreciate your honesty and the originality of your approach….but it feels to be too original to me, perhaps, and not suitable for the great mass of people who hunger of Oneness with the Divine.

    • John says:

      It is very clear that following the death of his father, Ramana acquired a deep and lasting interest in spiritual and religious matters. It was, after all, the explication of deep spiritual and religious understandings that he turned to in the long silence in the temple at Arunachula while trying to digest the great awakening that had come to him in the death experience.
      I do not dismiss the yearning for oneness with the divine, nor do I believe that such matters are without value to the human family. But I do believe, as I said in the article, that the great weight of human misery is entirely psychological, and the quest for divine union has proven to be of little help to those who are afflicted with that misery. Moreover, I believe that the spiritual quest itself is weakened by putting it to the task of solving mental disorders.
      Our approach addresses and heals the cause of the psychological misery that affects most human beings. Once that is out of the way and the mind regenerates itself on a healthy foundation that is free of the fear, a person’s relationship with their particular interests, be it religion, spirituality, philosophy, sports, arts, etc., will be much cleaner, more effective, and healthier, since they will not be seeking that which cannot be gotten from those pursuits.
      Mystery abounds. That there would be anything at all, is magical. The approach to the mystery is best served uncluttered with the effort to solve human problems.

      • Steven Rosen says:

        Nice answer…..very clear….. the purpose of spirituality/realization is really not to fix the self or cure mental conflicts….. well put…thanks, SR

  3. Christopher — says:

    John, I would be interested in your opinion of my article (knock Knock) in the spring 2014 issue of ONE, in which I navigate around the constructs of the monkey mind.

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