Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Rehabilitating Judas

(Note: The title of this post is a link to the edited text of Ken Wapnick's workshop on The Metaphysics of Separation and Forgiveness - forgiveness being the central theme of "Rehabilitating Judas.")

When Jesus in the NT accounts finds his disciples, it says in Mk. 1:16-18 "Now as he walked by the sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. And Jesus said unto them, Come ye after me and I will make you to become fishers of men. And straightaway they forsook their nets and followed him."
This presents a beautiful image. Of course in one way or another we are all fishers, making a living somehow recovering sustenance out of the sea of life, the world of time and space, symbolized here by the Sea of Galilee. And the willingness of Simon and Andrew to drop their pursuit, and follow Jesus is likewise impressive. I think we should understand this also mostly symbolically. I.e. it isn't what you're doing, but how you do it, or as the Course would say who you do it with (with the ego or with Jesus). It doesn't necessarily mean that we always need to change the form of what we are doing, but certainly who we are doing it with i.e. the ego or Jesus, i.e. we need to change our investment in the world. In the present case however, making the disciples into fishers of men further extends the image of what Jesus' ministry is all about: pulling us our brothers out of the sea of life and into the world of the spirit. And of course our ego can flop around like a fish out of water in the process, since it sees only death, and the resolution doesn't come until we can identify more with Jesus, and realize that we are also spirit, and not our egos or our bodies.

Part of this flip-flopping like a fish out of water, which we do in this process, is essentially a switching back and forth between ego and spirit. Our allegiance to spirit is weak at first, and we want back in the water that we knew. In the Course this issue is addressed in numerous ways, one important section being "The Development of Trust," in the Manual for Teachers. It deals very specifically with the shifting of our values from the values of time (the sea of Galilee) to the values of eternity, and it makes no secret about the discomfort of this transition.
Another passage which reflects this "flipflopping" stage is:
"
7 As this recognition becomes more firmly established, it becomes a turning point. 8 This ultimately reawakens spiritual vision, simultaneously weakening the investment in physical sight. 9 The alternating investment in the two levels of perception is usually experienced as conflict, which can become very acute. 10 But the outcome is as certain as God.
" (ACIM: T-2.III.3:7-10)

The disciples, representing the Twelve, the signs of the Zodiac, as a group represent simply all forms of human experience and character. And they represent our willingness to follow Jesus as well as our failings in doing so, including our frequent falling down, and relapsing to our old value system. In the book Disappearance of the Universe there is an interesting comment that most of the apostles still needed another twenty odd incarnations before they "got it."

Quite clearly Judas' reported "betrayal," was such a relapse, and in our practice of forgiveness, forgiving Judas is likely to come up, in the same way that everything else comes up, namely as and when we realize that he is a character in the play we're in, which we've projected on the screen in order to have a scapegoat for our guilt over the fact that we feel responsible for nailing Jesus to the Cross. Recognizing that means the first step. It is the reversal of projection, and taking back responsibility for that for which we condemned our brother. Next comes the "Little Willingness" to be wrong and to ask the Holy Spirit for help instead, it means relinquishing the ego's judgment. The final and third step of the process is the Holy Spirit's work entirely, and the crucial point is for us not to fill in and try to do his work for him, thus "adding the ego to him." We all have a strong tendency to want to do too much.

J. W. Kaiser offers some interesting commentary to Judas, as follows, in his commentary on Mk. 14:10, on p. 254 of his book "Beleving van het Evangelie," (I'm working on a translation titled "Experiencing the Gospel):
"Judas Ishkarioth. The Archetype who sees the highest Salvation as the highest, purest, elevation of Form, is affected more painfully than any of the others by the Destruction of the Form, by complete surrender, by complete Dedication to the Master.
That is the hour in which he "falls;" in which he, not as a thief or murderer, but as Disciple, chosen by the Master himself, becomes the bearer of the Failings of his Brothers, a Failing which in him as the one most tied to Form, must take Shape.
Therefore it has the appearance that he bears the great Guilt alone. Therefore it is as if those others fled only in their upset, and only mourned until the Master appeared to them.
In truth all failed, and always fail, so that Judas has to fail, also because of their Guilt.
This we may remember as Initiates, that the moment when we take offense at the Surrender to the Master, our soul is promptly headed for the Chief Priest.
For then we are prepared, because our Image of Him is being violated, to sell His Truth to the power of dogmatism and fanaticism.
This is what all Initiates do, because they are still weak and selfish.
But when the Thirty unwanted silver pieces burn in their hands, they know: "I have betrayed innocent blood." The Judas-wage is this despair. For everyone who wants to be a Follower, his is the image of Yielding to the norms of this earth.
"

And here, in very different language than what we find in A Course in Miracles, the same issues are addressed, based on the Gospel story: healing can only take place by taking ownership of the projection of our guilt onto Judas. He merely happens to be the character who plays that part in the cosmic drama of the Gospel, but his character merely represents a part of us, and in forgiving him, by identifying with true empathy with Judas as a brother we can own the fact that we've failed in the same way so many times, and forgive ourselves for it.

In lesson 197, paragraph 2, the Course offers the following:
"
How easily are God and guilt confused by those who know not what their thoughts can do. 2 Deny your strength, and weakness must become salvation to you. 3 See yourself as bound, and bars become your home. 4 Nor will you leave the prison house, or claim your strength, until guilt and salvation are not seen as one, and freedom and salvation are perceived as joined, with strength beside them, to be sought and claimed, and found and fully recognized.
"

In other words, our judgments imprison and enslave us, forgiveness sets us free.

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