Monday, October 31, 2005

Acting School in Reverse

Recently I was involved in a translation of Kenneth Wapnick's article "A PORTRAIT OF A COURSE IN MIRACLES STUDENT AS AN ARTIST" (Lighthouse Vol 16 Number 1, March 2005). As always, my experience of translation was that it is both impossible technically, and because of that it hightens one's integration of the meaning of any given text The only hope in translation comes from actually understanding what the author means, and rendering it anew in the other language. In other words it is about translating the content, not the form, all the while honoring the restrictions of the form relationships involved, and being faithful to the original as much as possible.

(Note: you can click on the title above to find the article.)

Re-reading this article, and with a new level of intensity, given the task at hand, I found that it offered me some interesting new connections. In particular, there is the business that in order to truly be "in-spired" in our performance (of the lead role in this movie which we call our life), we have to get the ego out of the way.

This runs counter to e.g. what we learn in acting school, which says to totally identify with the character, to the point that their emotions become our own. The mission here is making the drama very real, by taking the emotions very seriously.

Contrary to that however, our path to mastery as Course students, lies in doing exactly the reverse, namely by accepting the help of the Holy Spirit so we stop taking any of our emotions seriously at all, and as a result we can operate from a standpoint of true empathy with everyone we encounter. The shift lies in the fact that our life no longer depends on the outcome, for we now operate from the certainty that we know who we are, and it's not the character in the dream. Thus by virtue of this inner distance that comes with being the observer of the play, and we can play our roles actually better because of this new found freedom.

As Gary Renard recently pointed out on the DU forum in his posting related to his experiences with MDC, practicing forgiveness does not mean being a patsy. So when the role calls for firmly speaking up, by all means do that too. However if we are in our right minds, we won't feel attacked, and we won't attack, but just represent whatever it is the role calls for at the time. In the end of course this method of unlearning acting and taking our dream roles progressively less seriously, lessens the opportunities for drama in our lives, and helps us to get on with it rather quicker.

(c) 2006, Rogier van Vlissingen.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

ACIM and the Bible - References and some notes

In the following I want to provide at least a preliminary accounting for the specific references in the Course to the Bible and New Testament, and offer some commentary. Note that on a practical level the Bible to the Course is the KJV.

One of the interesting quotes in the Course regarding the Bible is the following:
3 Nothing the ego perceives is interpreted correctly. 4 Not only does the ego cite
Scripture for its purpose, but it even interprets Scripture as a witness for itself. 5 The Bible is a fearful thing in the ego's judgment. 6 Perceiving it as frightening, it interprets it fearfully. 7 Being afraid, you do not appeal to the Higher Court because you believe its judgment would also be against you.
unquote (ACIM:T-5.VI.3-7)

The implication here is that the Bible is neutral, in quite the same sense as the Course says "the body is a neutral thing," and the emphasis is on our interpretation of it, i.e. either with the ego or with the Holy Spirit. And in line 7 the quote indicates how it is the ego in us which is afraid of the Holy Spirit's interpretation, and to the extent that we're identified with our ego we will therefore naturally be afraid of the ruling of the "Higher Court," the Holy Spirit.

Needless to say the corollary to this is that we can read the Bible in an entirely new way, in a right minded way, if we do so with the Holy Spirit, not the ego as our guide.

The quote also paraphrases Shakespeare in The Merchant of Venice, "The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose." (I, iii, 99) Alluding to how the ego builds its own theology on the basis of scripture, bending it to its own purposes.

An exhaustive list of quotes of the word "Bible" in the Course, with some provisional characterizations looks as follows:

" The emptiness engendered by fear must be replaced by forgiveness. 2 That is what the Bible means by "There is no death," and why I could demonstrate that death does not exist."

Clearly the Course refers to the Bible saying something right, which has been misunderstood by us. In other words, the Bible here is just the book, which can be understood one way or another way, only one of which is right.

" 4 The Bible speaks of a new Heaven and a new earth, yet this cannot be literally true, for the eternal are not re-created."

Here it seems clear that the comment is on the Bible itself not saying something clearly, so it highlights a distortion in the Bible as such. This is no surprise for we know a lot about the problems of transmission of the Biblical texts over the ages, as well as there being a lot of justifiable suspicion of editorial interference.

in T-8.IX.7:1-3
"The Bible enjoins you to be perfect, to heal all errors, to take no thought of the body as separate and to accomplish all things in my name. 2 This is not my name alone, for ours is a shared identification. 3 The Name of God's Son is One, and you are enjoined to do the works of love because we share this Oneness."

Here he quotes the Bible as a reliable source, though it inevitably has not been well understood by us... and so he emphasizes how it should be understood.

"5 The Bible is a fearful thing in the ego's judgment."

Clearly here it is the ego's interpretation of the Bible that is being faulted.

"3 The Bible gives many references to the immeasurable gifts which are for you, but for which you must ask. 4 This is not a condition as the ego sets conditions. 5 It is the glorious condition of what you are."

Clearly here the reference to the Bible is in a positive sense, albeit with an amplification.

" The Bible tells you to become as little children. 2 Little children recognize that they do not understand what they perceive, and so they ask what it means. 3 Do not make the mistake of believing that you understand what you perceive, for its meaning is lost to you."

Clearly here the intention is a clarification of and extension to statements in the Bible, again seeking to prevent certain erroneous interpretations of it.

" 9 That is why the Bible speaks of "the peace of God which passeth understanding." 10 This peace is totally incapable of being shaken by errors of any kind. "

This appears to be again a very neutral quote, and an elaboration.
"The Bible says that you should go with a brother twice as far as he asks. 2 It certainly does not suggest that you set him back on his journey. 3 Devotion to a brother cannot set you back either."

Again a quote and elaboration, seeking to avert misinterpretation.

"The Bible tells you to know yourself, or to be certain. 2 Certainty is always of God."

Another case of quote and elaboration.

" The Bible repeatedly states that you should praise God. 2 This hardly means that you should tell Him how wonderful He is. 3 He has no ego with which to accept such praise, and no perception with which to judge it."

Here is where the word "Bible" seems to be more symbolic as the "ego thought system based on Biblical theology," with a strong hint that in fact the text itself may be misleading, which again because of its very dubious provenance, having passed through many hands, is not a surprise.

" 10 This is what the Bible means when it says, "When he shall appear (or be perceived) we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is."

Here again it seems to be about how the Bible has been (mis)understood more so than about what it says.

"The Bible says, "The Word (or thought) was made flesh." 2 Strictly speaking this is impossible, since it seems to involve the translation of one order of reality into another. 3 Different orders of reality merely appear to exist, just as different orders of miracles do. 4 Thought cannot be made into flesh except by belief, since thought is not physical."

That seems to be a correction of the gnostic theology of the Gospel according to John,(Jn.1:14) in other words, addressing an egoic distortion in the actual Biblical text itself.

"4 The Bible says, "Ask in the name of Jesus Christ." 5 Is this merely an appeal to magic?"

A neutral quote and an elaboration.

" 6 Yet the Bible says that a deep sleep fell upon Adam, and nowhere is there reference to his waking up."

Here again he faults our careless reading of it, implying that there was something worthwhile in the Bible, which we conveniently ignored. This is certainly true of mainstream Biblical theology, less so in some more esoteric schools, where many have in fact noted this comment very carefully, and paid a lot of attention to
it, in quite the same vein as the Course does.

"The Bible emphasizes that all prayer is answered, and this is indeed true. 2 The very fact that the Holy Spirit has been asked for anything will ensure a response."

A neutral quote.

"4 When the Bible says "Judge not that ye be not judged," it means that if you judge the reality of others you will be unable to avoid judging your own."

An expansion that addresses a problem of interpretation.

" 4 The Bible says, "May the mind be in you that was also in Christ Jesus," and uses this as a blessing. 5 It is the blessing of miracle-mindedness. 6 It asks that you may think as I thought, joining with me in Christ thinking."

Another objective quote, and reinforcement of the right interpretation.


And now a very important reference to the New Testament:

T-6.I.13.The message of the crucifixion is perfectly clear:

2 Teach only love, for that is what you are.

T-6.I.14.If you interpret the crucifixion in any other way, you are using it as a weapon for assault rather than as the call for peace for which it was intended. 2 The Apostles often misunderstood it, and for the same reason that anyone misunderstands it. 3 Their own imperfect love made them vulnerable to projection, and out of their own fear they spoke of the "wrath of God" as His retaliatory weapon. 4 Nor could they speak of the crucifixion entirely without anger,
because their sense of guilt had made them angry.
T-6.I.15.These are some of the examples of upside-down thinking in the New Testament, although its gospel is really only the message of love. 2 If the Apostles had not felt guilty, they never could have quoted me as saying, "I come not to bring peace but a sword." 3 This is clearly the opposite of everything I taught. 4 Nor could they have described my reactions to Judas as they did, if they had really understood me. 5 I could not have said, "Betrayest thou the Son of man with a
kiss?" unless I believed in betrayal. 6 The whole message of the crucifixion was simply that I did not. 7 The "punishment" I was said to have called forth upon Judas was a similar mistake. 8 Judas was my brother and a Son of God, as much a part of the Sonship as myself. 9 Was it likely that I would condemn him when I was ready to demonstrate that condemnation is impossible?
T-6.I.16.As you read the teachings of the Apostles, remember that I told them myself that there was much they would understand later, because they were not wholly ready to follow me at the time. 2 I do not want you to allow any fear to enter into the thought system toward which I am guiding you. 3 I do not call for martyrs but for teachers. 4 No one is punished for sins, and the Sons of God are not sinners. 5 Any concept of punishment involves the projection of blame, and reinforces the idea that blame is justified. 6 The result is a lesson in blame, for all behavior teaches the
beliefs that motivate it. 7 The crucifixion was the result of clearly opposed thought systems; the perfect symbol of the "conflict" between the ego and the Son of God. 8 This conflict seems just as real now, and its lessons must be learned now as well as then.

This last quote offers enough material for a dissertation, yet I'll venture some notes here:
- The "Teach only love" comment counters the sacrificial theology which is primarily of Pauline origin, being not present at all in the Thomas Gospel, and not an issue even in the canonical Gospel according to Mark.
- The pointed comment of the apostles misunderstanding him is a commentary on the stories about the apostles, and their clear misunderstanding of Jesus which are very evident in the NT. The careful reader therefore should look at the stories as illustrations for the sake of our own struggles in understanding Jesus, not as a revelation of evident Christian truth, as later theology made it out to be.
- Fair to say then that the real purpose of the Gospel accounts was to help "a way in which some people may be able to find their own Internal Teacher." That is why the Gospel is known in Greek as Eu-angelion - the Good News, the Good Message.

Going beyond these specific references, we find many, many levels of "correction," relative to the Biblical/Christian conceptions of him, including the usage of major terms like crucifixion, second coming, etc. etc. etc.

In a way the Course really turns the tables on the ego system by very specifically using Christian theology as the perfect example of how the ego system works. And of course since the whole theology of vicarious salvation is of Paul and not of Jesus, we could make a whole study of that problem in and of itself.

In conclusion, "the Bible," (even if it isn't mentioned explicitly), when mentioned in the Course means either the book, and specifically the KJV, because of its influence on the English language in general, and because Helen knew it best in particular, or it means the "accepted ego-theology (i.e. of Pauline Christianity) based on the Bible." The corrections the Course offers equally fall in those two categories, addressing the imperfections of tradition such as we have it, as well as the problems of subsequent interpretation, and how the book has been read to say something else than the teachings intended.

Most importantly, throughout these comments are part of "questioning every value that we hold," as well as an invitation to read the Bible in a new, right-minded way, and leave behind the fearful interpretations that we have traditionally made of it with ego-theology.

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

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

God, Bible, ACIM, and other trouble

Throughout the Course it becomes clear that God did not create the world. Never before the Course was there any teaching, in particular not in the Judaeo-Christian cultural domain which has made this so clear. Yet it was always right in front of our faces. We just chose not to listen.

In particular the convenience of religion provided the ego with the necessary veiling so we could skip wondering about these questions, but allow ourselves to carouse in the time space hologram some more, and help ourselves to a serving of religion on Sunday mornings (or Saturday, as the case may be), in which any spiritually disturbing questions were eliminated in a homogenized, pasteurized version of substitute spirituality, which we paid priests, preachers, and theologians to provide for us, in order to keep our conscience at bay. This is part of the deal the world has to offer. Lifetime job security, in exchange for some steady donations, in order to pacify the guilt pangs from which we suffer.

In one of the more interesting direct corrections of the Bible, the Course offers the following:

11 I cannot choose for you, but I can help you make your own right choice. 12 "Many are called but few are chosen" should be, "All are called but few choose to listen." 13 Therefore, they do not choose right. 14 The "chosen ones" are merely those who choose right sooner. 15 Right minds can do this now, and they will find rest unto their souls. 16 God knows you only in peace, and this your reality.
unquote (ACIM:T-3.IV.7:11-16)

The Course has this disconcerting way of putting the responsibility right back on our shoulders, inducing a flight response many a time for any serious student, until we finally start to realize that "The secret of salvation is but this: you are doing this unto yourself." (ACIM:T-27.VII.10:1) and then we get ready to "take up our cross and follow him," to use the NT phraseology for the same thing.

More so than ever before since the publication of "The Disappearance of the Universe," by Gary Renard, with its documentation of the inner consistency between the teachings of the Thomas Gospel in particular with the teachings of Jesus in ACIM, the message is that Jesus always did and always will teach the same thing. Christianity was the aberration, the ego is the aberration.

Careful readers however, who have not let theology delay them (c.f. ACIM:C-in.4:5) and who therefore took the trouble of reading the Bible for themselves, without the convenience of theological padding, have consequently had to deal with the different forms of our relationship to God which are expressed in the Bible. To quote a comment from a theological dictionary by a German theologian (Doz. Theol. Abraham Meister, Namen des Ewigen, Mitternachtsruf Verlag Grosse Freude, Pfäffikon/ZH Schweiz 1973, p. 304 - my translation):

God has made Israel in to what it has become through His deeds and His Revelation. It was certain of its God in that, and through that of its existence. His Glory was reflected in that, more so than from creation and all that is visible. In the Old Testament the Glory of the true God is revealed by his Revelation in his chosen people by means of prophecy and by His miracles (Is. 41:22, 43:9-11, 44:7). That is a higher level of Revelation than the creation of the world.

This is a wonderful commentary, from an otherwise fairly traditional theologian, who however is a careful reader, and who keeps pointing up the material questions the Bible raises for anyone who takes the trouble to read it, rather than accept the brand name re-packaged versions that religions have to offer. In other words, while Meister and his ilk never get around to the psychological refinement that the creator God really is a projection of the ego, and the Gnostic teachings which addressed this point never reached the level of clarity of teaching which we now have in the Course, enough so that people might have heard it, the careful reader cannot escape the notion that there are (at least) two levels of God concept in the Biblical tradition, and that the inner experience of God as manifested in the prophets is of a different order than the creation of the Universe.

Another interesting example of the same occurs in the book Job, and I quote J.W.Kaiser on this, from his book "De Mysterien van Jezus in ons Leven," Servire, Den Haag, 1965, Chapter 15 "Beproeving," which I'm currently translating, and expect to publish in the next few years.

Here is what Kaiser says about the ending of Job, when the temptation is over, once Job quits listening to the ego's witnesses (his "friends"), and the Voice for God is heard by him:
For this is the secret of all doubt and all despair in Temptation, that a human being equates the blessings of Time with the blessings of Eternity. Loudly all temporal values scream as proven facts, but the Imperishable One is silent.
Until Job and his friends shut up. Then God speaks.
That is why all yielding to temptation is a relapse into the pseudo-promises of life-in-Time. But enduring a Temptation gives us the awareness, that the Angels of God serve us.
“Then God-upside-down let go of Him... and see! Angels came and ministered to Him.” (Mt. 4:11)

And in the Glossary of the same book (p. 151), he offers the following comment on Job:

Job means "who experiences hostility." The old proper names were absolutely not "accidental," in this way.
His "friends" are the three accepted principles, which no longer work, as soon as the new, God as Opponent, enters his life to remove the split from it... Their names are Eliphas=God is Force, Bildad=Son of Battle (aggression therefore) and Zofar=Chatterbox. Exactly the simple scheme, which together with the "goodness" of Job, characterizes meaningless man.
The book was extensively mutilated. The last part, which comes after "here end the words of Job," as the end of his complaint, according to experts has been added by a later editor. This does not prove that there was no ending before that. The "opener" now is Elihu=This my God. He removes from Job the semblance of having been shortchanged, the appearance of being "right" before God. And it is this which still liberates the Initiate from the irresistable pressure to feel "unfairly" treated, of being ignored and neglected. That is why the Book Job is so valuable, even today, because it lifts man above being stranded in self-justification, in bitterness, which reflects being caught up between High and Low.

In other words the whole point of the book of Job is about the inner transition from the ego's "Good God, Bad God,") towards an inner knowing of God on His terms, as he truly is, which is not possible as long as we listen to the committee in our head, the voices of the ego, who we think are our friends, but which really try to shield us from knowing who we are in truth.

Much later some gnostic schools tried to give expression to the concept of the creator God of Genesis as a lesser entity, without ever arriving at the level of clarity of the psychological explanation of the Course. Finally it is clear now that that God of Genesis and generally the angry God who appears many a time in the Old Testament is in fact the ego's projection onto God of the guilt over the separation thought, and is terrifying as long as the belief in separation is what drives our concept of ourselves as an ego.

Only with the Course do we finally find conceptual clarity about the difference between the creating of God, and the making of the ego, combined now with the psychological wherewithal to make it all practical in our daily lives. In looking back on the tradition with the clarity of the Course, we must notice that at least some hints were always there, and that many aware people over the ages struggled with these issues. Fair to say that the Bible, stripped of the theological straight-jacket of either Jewish or Christian theology, ranges all over the place, covering the creator God, the God/Devil duality of the ego, as well as the inner God. It reflects more the struggle with man's relationship to God in our particular tradition, than that it gives a homogeneous picture. That is provided by the veneer of religions which use the Bible as their "Holy Book," and proceed to tell us what it says, so we won't have to take the trouble of going on our own quest.

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

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Reformation Revisited

Martin Luther is a powerful figure for me, even with his shortcomings. The Reformation, while changing some important things, and being a major step in furtherance of a personal relationship with God, over and above the standing practices, never managed to truly break out of the "church" model of Christianity, or for that matter out of the Pauline tradition of Christianity. (Note: By clicking on the title above there is a link to a biography and a wealth of resources about Martin Luther.) I want to suggest some reflections on the true inspirations of his life, and his gift to us all.

The Course warns us of the strong tendency of our ego to meddle in the affairs of the Holy Spirit as follows:
The holy instant is the result of your determination to be holy. 2 It is the 3 The desire and the willingness to let it come precede its coming. 4 You prepare your mind for it only to the extent of recognizing that you want it above all else. 5 It is not necessary that you do more; indeed, it is necessary that you realize that you cannot do more. 6 Do not attempt to give the Holy Spirit what He does not ask, or you will add the ego to Him and confuse the two. 7 He asks but little. 8 It is He Who adds the greatness and the might. 9 He joins with you to make the holy instant far greater than you can understand. 10 It is your realization that you need do so little that enables Him to give so much.
unquote (ACIM:T18.IV.1)

And all of us who have worked with the Course know of our own experience just how hard it is to leave well enough alone. So, if Saul/Paul had a legitimate experience on the road to Damascus, the risk is too much ego interference in giving expression to that experience in his life, and that is how he could end up turning Jesus's teachings on their ear. Likewise I believe that Martin Luther also experienced the Holy Instant, and yet remained a child of his time in history, and was perhaps not ready to be radical enough, staying broadly within the church mold, even while finding it impossible not to pursue his issues which were to lead to the schism (ego!) called the Reformation. It is the same mistake all of us make a million times before we ever learn, and it merits nothing but our forgiveness, and respect and recognition for the true inspiration at the foundation of this man's thought.

In a brief bio of Martin Luther on the site referenced above, we find an interesting summary of the main theme of his life:
"But Luther himself saw the Reformation as something far more important than a revolt against ecclesiastical abuses. He believed it was a fight for the gospel. Luther even stated that he would have happily yielded every point of dispute to the Pope, if only the Pope had affirmed the gospel.

And at the heart of the gospel, in Luther's estimation, was the doctrine of justification by faith--the teaching that Christ's own righteousness is imputed to those who believe, and on that ground alone, they are accepted by God."

This is quite remarkable. In a way it would seem then that it was only ML's conditioning, misplaced loyalty to tradition, in which he kept thinking of the church as the vehicle for God's word, which made him feel the need for validation of the above by the Pope. Inner acceptance of Jesus's Good News (the name of the Greek word Euangelion, the Gospel), which in Course terms is summed up as: "Teach only love for that is what you are," (ACIM:T-6.III.2:4) would indeed suffice, no papal imprimatur needed.

Martin Luther also realized that we should go back to reading the Bible ourselves, for that the Church had gotten between a people and their God. His "Verdeutschung der Schrift" was a truly a Herculean achievement for which we must be grateful to him to this day.

However, if anything, Luther wasn't radical enough, and that is why the Reformation stayed stuck in "Christianity," for he stuck to the bad habit of misreading the Bible as the revealed word of God, rather than a collection of writings of a number of people over about 2000 years, struggling with their relationship with God, and truly ranging from the ridiculous to the sublime. Had he been able to free himself from his Christian indoctrination, and step far enough back to do that, the Bible might have revealed itself as a collection of writings which does not provide the ANSWER to who or what is God, but rather poses the QUESTION of what should our relationship to God be, for it is not coherent at all, except by virtue of the theological constructs built on top of it by either Judaism or Christianity. And the answer of course is within, is experience, and there are plenty of wonderful expressions of that to be found in the Bible.

Likewise, Luther's other main beef, against the selling of indulgences, was obviously right on point, except once again not radical enough in retrospect, for he was not a critical enough reader to see that Paul's theology about Jesus was in marked contradiction to the original teachings of Jesus, as many critical readers after him have pointed out. In particular the whole sacrificial theology that goes back to Paul's concept of vicarious salvation (we get to sin, and he dies for our sins, making the world and the body real, and thus letting the ego off the hook somewhat, but still feeling guilty), is the foundation thought on which the whole notion of indulgences was based. So while Luther argued against the practice of selling indulgences, he did not recognize that the foundation was in Paul itself, and moreover that Paul turned Jesus's teachings more or less into the opposite of what he actually taught. He might have been better off to eliminate all of Paul's writing from his version of the New Testament, yet he was too much a child of the belief in sin himself, and could not make that step.

However, I believe he was instrumental in clearing the way for many to indeed undertake having their own relationship with the Bible, and work on their relationship with God quite beyond the church context more so than before. At the same time however the translation itself becomes part of the problem, because among other things all different terms for "God" in Hebrew (OT) are translated essentially the same, so for all its good intentions the translation contributes to a theological homogenization, which is increasingly harder to untangle, unless one goes back to the original.

Finally by continuing in the church model, the Protestant church, while more liberal and open in a lot of ways, reinforced the familiar old pattern of external practice of a faith, rather than seeking the internal path. The need for teachers and preachers in the church model is simply another part of the ego script. Our relationship with God post the separation is a problem to us, because we don't want him around, and our troubled mind comes up with this projection of an angry creator God, who is mad at us for messing up his plans. The extreme inconsistencies of the Biblical literature give expression to the whole range of feelings related to God, and the God concept is not at all homogeneous. We however do not want to entertain questions, we want answers, and hence we empower theologians to explain the Bible to us, and to run the church. We donate money to the church to keep God away from us, and pacify him, so we hope he won't come after us. The church becomes merely another authority figure in the dream, including the potential for abuse in many different ways. It is merely another instance of the ego's victim/victimizer script, and codependence a central implied norm.

The difference with the Course is that Jesus is very clear that this is a self-study course, and truly the lessons lead us to the experiences which will increasingly reveal deeper and deeper levels of meaning in the words of the Course. The Course itself becomes superfluous in the end, as will all teachers of the Course--if we truly study the Course that is--for we could also form a dependent relationship with a teacher, as much as many self-proclaimed teachers offer indispensable interpretations (at least in their own minds), so that instead of a help it becomes a hindrance, and a detour. In other words, the Course properly understood is a path of disintermediation, and taking responsibility for our own relationship with our Inner Teacher, and in the end with God. The path of the church is a path of intermediation, which rests on the Pauline notion that we're all sinners. This provides plentiful job opportunities for a priestly class, and theologians etc., who are all in business for the express purpose of shielding us from the responsibility for our relationship with God.

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

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

The Samaritan Woman in John 4:1-26

In a way the parable of the Samaritan woman in John 4:1-26 embodies the essence of what this list is all about. For the water of the fathers (in time) of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, etc. (see Genesis) makes us thirst again and again, while the waters of the spirit can quench our thirst once and for all, but since we all don't know any better we go to Jacob's well to get the water that makes us thirst and we don't see Jesus, who is asking us to drink, but in reality is offering us the water of the spirit.

One way of looking at this is that the faiths of the fathers are in fact the pseudo-religions which the sonship establishes to justify and rationalize its beliefs and make the world real, and cause(!) its adventures in the world of time and space, and both Judaism and Christianity serve that same purpose. A good way of hiding that purpose is to emphasize the differences between the two, while any true spirituality will ultimately acknowledge that truth is one and that all paths must lead there in the end--for if they didn't truth would not be true.

A true spiritual path, like the Course, offers us the way out, which subconsciously we do not really want, and just like the Samaritan woman we go back to the well we know in search of more of the water that makes us thirst again (guilt!). It is the juice on which the illusion runs, which is transmitted from generation to generation and to a large degree the books of the Pentateuch, if not the entire Old Testament are the story of the sonship wandering in the world of time and space.

Here is what J. W. Kaiser writes about the parable (in "De Mysterien van Jezus in ons leven," p. 150, translation RFvV):
However the episode with the Samaritan woman contains a deeper reference to the real Israel. Not to the ten tribes which formed the Kingdom of Israel were constantly at odds with the Kingdom of Judea (including Benjamin). Not to the British Israel Movement, with their artful thought processes, in which so many idealists have been caught up. But Israel as: Man caught up in Time. Israel "fallen" into the discernment of opposites, Israel as Man yielding to the temptations of Space, Israel as Man bound to the Wheel, who imagines himself to be waiting (Semer!), but still only knows the happenings in time as reality, and thus constantly makes his children drink from that Source which makes them thirst again. Israel the Happenings in Time, which lives on in the Twelve kinds of Children, as the archetypes of the so-called Zodiac, the slide positive of earthly relativity. To save this Israel is to lead the Twelve "tribes" back to the House of the Father, to Eternity.

Written 25 years prior to the Course, this commentary shows us not only how much was always there for those with ears to hear and eyes to see, but it reminds us that the problem at all times is our willingness to listen. However, thankfully the Course is a lot more explicit, and perhaps makes it harder not to listen.

What the parable of the Samaritan woman does not capture, is the attraction to guilt. It does show her wanting, looking for the water that makes us thirst again, but it doesn't give expression to the ego's attraction to guilt, as the Course does so well in the section by that name(T-19.IV.A.i), and throughout, and which really makes us say "No!" to the water that Jezus has to offer for most of our life, before we finally begin looking for "another way." An interesting detail also is how she feels inferior to Jesus, and we might now realize that the notion of a Samaritan being inferior to a Jew is only a parabolic expression for the inferiority we feel with respect to Jesus if we identify with the ego.

The parable reflects the ultimate moment when our heart finally recognizes that we are not truly married to any of our specialness partners, which we've merely used to shut Jesus out of our lives. Seeing the truth of that and following Jesus represents accepting the Atonement for ourselves. Along the way it also clarifies how the (ego) God we worship, is a figment of our imagination, and the real God is spirit (v. 23)
Thankfully, as the Course puts it, the outcome is as certain as God. (T-2.III.3:10) So while some have doubtlessly always found their way home with the scant information contained in parables like this, the Course gives us the tools to really clear away the obstacles that keep us from accepting the love we truly are. And to stay within the parable, we learn with the Course that the way to Jesus is to forgive ourselves for telling him off when he offers us the water that won't make us thirst again, until like the Samaritan woman, we can accept it and follow his teaching in our life, but first we need to be willing to see and acknowledge that the things of time have not healed us, before Jesus can. A passage in the section Self-concept versus Self makes an interesting corollary to the parable, in which Jesus finally says to us (in verse 26): "I that speak to you am he." (The Messiah). In the Course it is stated as follows:

7 I do not know the thing I am, and therefore do not know what I am doing, where I am, or how to look upon the world or on myself.

8 Yet in this learning is salvation born. 9 And What you are will tell you of Itself.
unquote (T-31.V.17:7-9)

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