Monday, January 13, 2014

Twelve Gates to the City

The "Twelve" always are a symbolic expression of the multiplicity of the world, and in that sense the gates of the heavenly Jerusalem are the same as the Twelve signs of the zodiac, the twelve tribes of Israel and the twelve apostles. Together they symbolize all of us, as we see ourselves in a world of differences, and on the Journey home we will pass through the gates of the Heavenly Jerusalem, to unite with Jesus as the one Son, thus Jesus is always the Thirteenth amongst the Twelve. In that sense, the path of forgiveness is the journey back home, in which, as we forgive and let go of our differences, we are passing through the gates of multiplicity, and we return to unity, there to join with Jesus.

In the last few days my friend Annelies Ekeler wrote a beautiful tribute to Ken Wapnick, who died recently, based on a post on her blog (in Dutch) titled The Gate of Unbelief (De Poort van 'ongeloof' in Dutch). In her blog post she makes the point that the ego's obstacles--the obstacles to Peace, as the Course calls them--eventually all become open gates we can pass through if we just give our emotions to the Holy Spirit, which is the essence of forgiveness. This is always grounded in the realization that we are never upset at a fact or a thing, but at our interpretation of it, which is indicative that we have put the ego in the driver's seat (again), and now we can make another choice.

Perhaps it will be helpful to remember that no one can be angry at a fact. It is always an interpretation that gives rise to negative emotions, regardless of their seeming justification by what [appears] as facts. Regardless, too, of the intensity of the anger that is aroused. It may be merely slight irritation, perhaps too mild to be even clearly recognized. Or it may also take the form of intense rage, accompanied by thoughts of violence, fantasied or apparently acted out. It does not matter. All of these reactions are the same. They obscure the truth, and this can never be a matter of degree. Either truth is apparent, or it is not. It cannot be partially recognized. Who is unaware of truth must look upon illusions.   (ACIM:M-17.4)
And then it all came together, and I began listening to some of my favorite versions of "Twelve Gates to the City," here are some of them:

And so it became an inspiring morning on this 13th of January, reflecting on the Twelve going back to One, who but seems like the Thirteenth, but was really the First to awaken, who is leading the Twelve back home through the gates of forgiveness.

Friday, January 03, 2014

Margot Krikhaar, "The Great Liberation," an Overview

As mentioned earlier, this book is Margot's more formal teaching of the Course, and it is meticulously put together in a way that aims both to explain the Course's sometimes arcane metaphysics, and also address and if possible prevent the many ways it is commonly misunderstood.

The book has just seven chapters, though some are more extensive than others... and the first few very carefully lay the ground work for the teaching. Chapter one sets up the basic parable of the nothingness of individuality in the form of one little wavelet in the ocean, which momentarily thinks it is reality. Chapter two deals with the purpose of this book, and addresses some of the more obvious ways in which the Course tends to be misconstrued.

If the book is taxiing on the runway in Chapters 1 and 2, in Chapter 3 it takes off, and Chapter 3 concludes with a series of channeled definitions of major Course terms, which can be very helpful indeed. They are also a sort of final wrap-up for the journey--the book has reached cruising altitude. For the rest, Chapter 3 carefully sorts out the usual confusion about what makes the Course a non-dualistic teaching, and why some other people end up calling the Course's non-dualism, dualism, as long as they are unaware of their own unexamined dualistic premises. All in all, Margot treats these issues in simple, straightforward language, which is a good refresher for anyone studying the Course, but which also means that the book could be an introduction for someone who did not know the Course before. Likewise, the issues around level confusion are clarified in very simple language. Thankfully, Margot says nothing original, she sticks to the Course. What makes the book unique is Margot's very personal and casual way of explaining things, which makes them very accessible, which is her intent exactly.

There are times when I find myself disagreeing with Margot, except it is somehow not material. For example, when she says that the Course is a "fairly recent" spiritual path, I disagree. To me the Course is the same thing Jesus taught then, and now, except it is worded in more modern language. Back two thousand years ago, he did not have the psychologies of Freud, and Rogers to fall back on, but the teaching is unchanged. I guess that boils down to just different ways of looking at it. The Course's form is obviously modern.

By Chapter 4 we hit paydirt, and Margot has a brilliant and clear explanation of the Course's mythology of the ego, and compares the fool's gold of the ego system to the thrills of the rides in an amusement park. Eventually they lose their charm, and we need to outgrow them. She uses very simple but evocative examples to explain the four splits in the mind by which we find ourselves in our human experience in this world. As a whole, Chapter 4 uses simple and straight forward examples and parables that convey the brilliance of the Course's understanding of the dynamics of the ego very concisely. This explanation includes a lucid treatment on the ego experience of linear time as a necessary expression of the mechanism of sin, guilt, and fear, and an equally lucid paraphrasing of the ego's dictum of "seek but do not find."

Chapters 5, 6 and 7 are the meat of the book, and present a very thorough treatment of the Course teachings by contrasting the thought system of the ego and the Holy Spirit and exploring the ways in which we keep ourselves confused between the two.

The book draws on the simple personal style of Margot's first book, Awakening in Love, but extends the material to a formal introduction to the Course, in line with the evolution of Margot's own teaching of the Course in her native Holland. It was not to be long, because Margot passed away within a few years after she started teaching, but this book is part of the permanent legacy she left behind, and it will be a welcome help to many Course students.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Margot Krikhaar on Money

Temptation has one lesson it would teach, in all its forms, wherever it occurs. It would persuade the holy Son of God he is a body, born in what must die, unable to escape its frailty, and bound by what it orders him to feel. It sets the limits on what he can do; its power is the only strength he has; his grasp cannot exceed its tiny reach. Would you be this, if Christ appeared to you in all His glory, asking you but this: 
Choose once again if you would take your place among the saviors of the world, or would remain in hell, and hold your brothers there. (ACIM:T-31.VIII.1)

Recently, I hosted a group reading on a webinar of Margot Krikhaar's article "All the Money Belongs to Everyone," and it was recorded and is now available on YouTube: Discussion of Margot Krikhaar's Money Article.

The first and most obvious thing is that the whole topic of money is rife with opportunities for level confusion, yet, even the records we have of Jesus's teaching outside the Course are pretty clear: Give to Caesar what is Caesar's. That was always clear, except it becomes a lot clearer when you understand the concept of levels in the Course. As Margot says in the introduction, she came to realize in her work in the corporate world (healthcare), that issues about money are not at all about money but about the content behind it, and about the attachments and attitudes of people. Money of course in the world is very involved with individual survival, and our attitudes towards it are a reflection of that. Thus the confusion is that we're having money problems, which are a wonderful distraction from the one real problem we do have: we have chosen the wrong teacher, and money or any other issue in the world are just a distraction to keep us from ever looking at that one faulty decision we made in the mind.

Ken Wapnick's little book on Form versus Content, Sex & Money also focuses on the temptations for level confusion by the ego's two favorite topics, sex and money. Both of these present us with endless problems and challenges that root our attention in the world, as they appear central to our survival, and have almost unlimited power to distract us from making the one decision in the mind, to choose once again, to dump the teacher of folly (the ego), and to choose the voice of the Holy Spirit for our guide, as the opening quote above suggests. In short, money and sex are merely ego topics par excellence, but no different than many other opportunities for distraction, and every problem we face invites us into an opportunity for choice, and the choice is always between moving the deck chairs on the Titanic with the ego (changing the form), or changing the content, by shifting to the Holy Spirit for our guidance, which is the miracle.

As Margot insightfully points out in her article, it makes no difference if the money is yours or not, for even being in apparent control of money for another party, or in an organization, provides opportunities for abuse of power that reinforce the ego's agenda. It also makes no difference if your issues are simply managing money, or the lack of it. Both are simply opposite sides of the same coin. It gets even funnier when people have power struggles over money in the not for profit world. And naturally, although Margot does not mention it, the Marxist solution attempt is faulty also, since to focus on the distribution of the physical means, the money itself, eventually does not solve the problem - it is merely another way of moving the famous deck chairs. The only thing that does solve the problem is changing teachers, and choosing the miracle over the ego's madness, at which point we simply handle our money or lack of it in an unselfish manner and stop reinforcing the ego, and heaping on more guilt all the time.

From my own recollection, during my time in the corporate world, I remember an interview with some woman who was struggling through the financial aftermath of a stellar career that had been abruptly ended, and among other things getting some financial counseling. She had been making over a million dollars a year (in the eighties), and her attitude in her own words was: "I thought that money was the stuff people throw off the back of trains." While she was good at managing other people's money, not so her own. Only later, with my experience with the Course, did all of this start to make any sense, including my own keen awareness during periods of relative affluence, that money does not make you happy, and that I frequently felt guilty buying things I thought I richly deserved (listening to the ego!), which is exactly what the ego wants: to keep us feeling guilty. Guilty that we do have money, guilty that we don't have money, and everything in between, as long as the guilt increases, the ego is still in charge.

In short, the whole point is that everything becomes easier if we learn to listen to the Holy Spirit instead of to the ego, including all the thorny issues of money and sex. Ken Wapnick has also frequently commented when people think the Course is not practical, and/or you could not be a Course student and run a business effectively, that the opposite is often the case, for if you are truly coming from your right mind and following the guidance of the Holy Spirit, you are not going to get side-tracked by all of the ego's emotional blackmail and games, and see through the issues, and instead of getting confused (level confusion), by focusing on the apparent problems on the level of form and effect (money), you will be focused on the issues behind the appearances at the level of cause. By following the guidance of the Holy Spirit, you will remain the voice of reason in the midst of the wildest storms, which is the only way you can truly handle situations in a way that serves everyone's highest interest, and therefore does not create more guilt, but clears up the ego's obfuscations instead.