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:
quote
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:

ACIM:T-1.IV.4:1-2
" 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.
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ACIM:T-11.VII.1:4
" 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.
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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.
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ACIM:T-5.VI.4:5
"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.
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ACIM:T-4.III.5:3-5
"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.
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ACIM:T-11.VII.2:1-3
" 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.
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ACIM:T-2.II.1:9-10
" 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.
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ACIM:T-4.in.1:1-3
"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.
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ACIM:T-3.III.5:1-2
"The Bible tells you to know yourself, or to be certain. 2 Certainty is always of God."

Another case of quote and elaboration.
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ACIM:T-4.VII.6:1-3
" 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.
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ACIM:T-3.II.5:10-11
" 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.
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ACIM:T-8.VII.7:1-4
"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.
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ACIM:M-23.1:4-5
"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.
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ACIM:T-2.I.3:6
" 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.
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ACIM:T-9.II.3:1-2
"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.
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ACIM:T-3.VI.1:4
"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.
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ACIM:T-5.I.3:4-6
" 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.

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And now a very important reference to the New Testament:

quote
ACIM:
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.
unquote

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.
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