Monday, July 18, 2005

Introducing the ACIM&Abraham blog

This blog will be focused on explorations of "A Course in Miracles" in the context of the faith(s) of our fathers, i.e. the Abrahamic religions in general, and Judaism, Christianity, and Islam in particular. In actual fact, given that one central themes of the Course really is the correction of Jesus' teachings as they have come through from the canonical New Testament, and the predominant Christian theology, the main focus is likely to be on Christianity and Christian theology, but that is by no means exclusive.

Even a superficial exposure to Jesus' teachings in the Course, as well as careful study of the history of Early Christianity, would make it obvious to anyone that the founding of Christianity was not something that had any relevance to Jesus, or which he pursued in any meaningful way -- all of that transpired after his time. So that without Christianity, on a practical level Jesus' ministry would have likely remained an inner Jewish phenomenon, even though his actual teachings were actually more universal in nature, and transcended Judaism per se.
As far as Islam is concerned, the connection appears more tenuous there, except to note that the Islamic reading of Jesus is interesting if for no other reason than the fact that it differed from the Christian reading. Most notably Islam does not make the critical mistake of declaring Jesus the last prophet, and putting him on a pedestal. It may not be clear to some why anyone else should be either.

On the level of personal experience I have seen many times that people get confused about the religious traditions they grew up with once they have studied the Course for a while. I thoroughly believe that this experience is an important part of people's learning experiences with the Course, and thus fundamental to integration of the Course's teachings in our lives. It also is rife with forgiveness opportunities, since so many feel negatively impacted by at least some of the religious beliefs they were raised with.

Specifically I feel that in the Course and related literature there are two major themes at work as related to Judaeo-Christian framework. One is the extensive implicit and explicit corrections of what the Course calls "The Bible," which in the narrow sence is really the KJV, but in the wider sense stands for the complex of mainstream Christian theology. These corrections include both specific references and statements which Jesus explains have been misunderstood, as well as implicit references by juxtaposing his teachings which are very obviously at odds with generally accepted notions of Christianity. There is also the very deliberate use of Christian terminology in new and unexpected ways. The framework of the teaching starts with the notions that the Course is coming from Jesus as the "I-person," that he is alive within us as our Inner Teacher, and that a relationship with him is a central focus of the Course. All of which are quite at odds with the Nicene Creed, and religious institutions and hiearchies. It is a self-study course, and specifically not meant to be the basis of any new cult--all of which is spelled out clearly in the introduction.

Secondly, the book "The Disappearance of the Universe," by Gary Renard has appeared on the market, and while on one hand it is a very accessible popular introduction to the Course, in a very profound sense it also is an important historical link, since it makes strong references to the Gospel according to Thomas. This comes at a time when many Christians are studying the Thomas Gospel, and some other apocryphal books, and are struggling to comprehend these very different teachings, which almost force on us the type of non-dualistic reading which the Course would offer. In other words through the implication of this inner consistency with the Jesus who spoke to us in the Thomas Gospel, a strong link is made between Jesus' teachings then - pre-Christianity, and his teachings now in the Course. This teaching model really highlights how the ego and the world got in the way of our understanding of him, by providing a set of explanations that might have been pleasing to Caesar--the ruler of THIS world, symbolic for the ego system--but had nothing to do with what he taught. The role of Caesar of course was filled to overflowing by the Emperor Constantine, and his triumphs were truly the fall of Christianity if it ever had any hope of reflecting Jesus' teachings in the first place. Thus when the Course suggests that "To learn this Course requires willingness to question every value that you hold." (ACIM:T-24.in.2:1), then the entire Judaeo-Christian value system and morality stands as model for the ego system that needs to be questioned at all levels.

In a very practical sense this blog will also be closely in tune with my work on translating the writings of the Dutch spiritual teacher Jan Willem Kaiser. Kaiser published his work mostly between 1929 and 1960, the year of his death. He wrote before the Course, but for me at least, the view he took on Jesus and the meaning of the Gospel prefigured the teachings of the Course I was to run into lateron. In 1987 I published the first English edition of a work by Kaiser, "Four Open Field Books," which contains for monographs which he presented originally as speeches at the Open Field Conferences, at Zeist, Holland, which were a series of international spiritual conferences with a very interdenominational focus, which sought to explore the meaning of religion and spirituality in a very open minded fashion, with the purpose of clarifying man's relationship to God.
Although "Four Open Field Books" had an introduction, I knew more was needed, and in 2003 I published "The Gospel as a Spiritual Path," which was that more extensive introduction, based on an article by Kaiser about the Gospel, and explanations of his vocabulary extracted from his own works, brought together as an introduction to his work, along with an exploration of my own work with "A Course In Miracles," as it was helping me to deepen my relationship with Kaiser's work in turn.

While I like to pursue a certain scholarly rigor in the presentation of some of this material, I do want to maintain an overall focus on the development of our own relationship to our Inner Teacher, which is the central focus of "A Course In Miracles." Thus, that personal experience and validation is the only final check that matters.

From a more technical standpoint this blog is an experiment. I am co-moderator of the Course Talk forum on Yahoo, and I run a closed - invitation only (for now) - group on Google, called ACIM&Abraham, which shares the same purpose as this blog. This blog will be the vehicle to present some more polished materials, which might have arisen from my translation work, or from the work on both forums listed above. At the outset of this blog it is an open question to me if it complements the Google forum of the same name, or competes with it. I will simply watch developments to see which will provide the better vehicle, but it may well be that both will exist side by side indefinitely.

Copyright, (c) 2005, Rogier F. van Vlissingen. All rights reserved.
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