Thursday, August 04, 2005

On Speaking Prematurely, and Being Wrong

The Course says the ego always speaks first, and is always wrong.

Remember that the Holy Spirit is the Answer, not the question. 2 The ego always speaks first. 3 It is capricious and does not mean its maker well. 4 It believes, and correctly, that its maker may withdraw his support from it at any moment. 5 If it meant you well it would be glad, as the Holy Spirit will be glad when He has brought you home and you no longer need His guidance. 6 The ego does not regard itself as part of you. 7 Herein lies its primary error, the foundation of its whole thought system.
" (ACIM:T-6.IV.1)

and the Holy Spirit always has the answer:
You cannot understand the conflict until you fully understand the basic fact that the ego cannot know anything. 2 The Holy Spirit does not speak first, 3 Everyone has called upon Him for help at one time or another and in one way or another, and has been answered. 4 Since the Holy Spirit answers truly He answers for all time, which means that everyone has the answer
" (ACIM:T-6.IV.3)

In the NT this issue of the ego's speaking first and being wrong is reflected in a slightly different way. And in the context of understanding everything as parable, we need to realize that the twelve apostles represent the twelve modalities of human character, complete with their innate capabilities of right-minded as well as wrong-minded responses. The stories of the NT reflect this. In the parable that is the gospel story, these twelve follow Jesus, but at many points they waffle, they're not so sure, etc. In other words, they are just like us, starting students of the Course who go back and forth in our experience, and sometimes want to throw the book against the wall, and other days feel blessed to be reading it. To be sure, in following Jesus, they demonstrated an openness and interest in "another way," in their lives, beginning at least a change from their traditional modes of living towards the promise of a Kingdom not of this world held out by Jesus.

Here is a piece of the story as it pertains to Peter:
27 And Jesus went out, and his disciples, into the towns of Caesarea Philippi: and by the way he asked his disciples, saying unto them, Whom do men say that I am?
28 And they answered, John the Baptist: but some say, Elias; and others, One of the prophets.
29 And he saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Peter answereth and saith unto him, Thou art the Christ.
30 And he charged them that they should tell no man of him.
31 And he began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.
32 And he spake that saying openly. And Peter took him, and began to rebuke him.
33 But when he had turned about and looked on his disciples, he rebuked Peter, saying, Get thee behind me, Satan: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men.
34 And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.
35 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it.
36 For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?
37 Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?
38 Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.
" (Mk. 8:27-38)

After we sort of get done shaking off some of the prejudice of our traditional reading of the passage, we can reflect on its meaning from a more right minded perspective. In essence, Peter, the Sagittarius apostle, also known as Simon the Doubter, on the one hand intuitively recognizes Jesus, but on the other hand gets concerned about the impending loss of the form. Jesus meanwhile obviously knows he is not his body, and that his teaching is the resurrection, not the crucifixion, and therefore that the concern is an ego-reaction. And Jesus rebukes Peter for giving in to this concern, but if the words would have been quite so sharp as tradition has it is another matter, of course... but, in the teaching that follows, Jesus in essence teaches Peter that hanging on to the (empty) form in the world gives you nothing, when you could have everything (i.e. the Kingdom, the Peace of God, or whatever you wish to call it.)

So Peter is waffling, as we all do as beginning students between our trust in content and form (this is what the development of trust is all about), and Jesus tries to shake him out of it. Thus when Jesus at another place calls for Simon to become Peter, to become the rock on which his "church" is built, obviously he is really talking about that Simon needs to stop placing his trust in the ego system (form = perishable, unstable) and instead place his trust in the Holy Spirit (Content, spirit, eternal), for on THAT rock his church is built, i.e. the oneness of the sonship, for in spirit all is one. It has nothing whatsoever to do with a community of bodies, much less with a community whose first act was to separate themselves from the Jewish community of which they were a part, and then after that separation, to split again and again, and again, and strive to establish truth by the sword. Jesus' teaching to Simon Peter has everything to do with joining with Jesus in our right mind, and building our path on that.

Thus the figure of Simon Peter, symbolizes just how the ego always misunderstands Jesus, in essence by taking him literally, by placing form above content, by not looking at things with him from above the battleground, and allowing a real change of mind. The later misunderstanding of the church as buildings and a community just continues on that path of misunderstanding, as if it were all still about doing something in the world. And so the story stands as a reminder of the tough time we all have in trusting in the abstract, rather than the concrete... but what we inevitably need to learn is to hang back and let the holy spirit speak through us, rather than to let the ego's urgency prevail. The meaning of the parable reveals itself to us only by following Jesus in our own life, and once we have tasted even once what it means to be in our right mind, we understand what Jesus meant with asking Simon to become Peter, the rock - upon which his "church" is built.

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