Thursday, December 15, 2005

Peace: Content and Form - Patton at St. Mihiel

In particular there is one passage in this book which will concern me here, and it is the spiritual experience of George S. Patton on the battlefield at St. Mihiel in WorldWar I. I quote this key passage here, which was taken from Patton's diary (as per Carlo d'Este, Patton, A Genius for War, p. 260):

Patton knew that he was alive but that part of him had died; he was a little bit in both worlds. In his own words: 'I was overwhelmed by a deep feeling of warmth, and peace and comfort, and of love. I knew profoundly death was related to life; how unimportant the change-over was; how everlasting the soul--and the love was all around me, like a subdued light.'

Many things could be said about this passage, but one of them surely is that choosing the miracle is the choice for Inner Peace, and it may or may not be reflected in the external circumstances. Other famous scenes attesting to the same point would be Sri Ramakrishna dying of stomach cancer, or Jesus being crucified. Those were also examples that could hardly be characterized as "peaceful" in the external sense, yet, as Jesus says emphatically the message of the crucifixion was "Teach only love, for that is what you are." (ACIM:T-6.III.2:4)

Also the famous picture of the Buddha meditating under the Bodhi-tree comes to mind, with demons attacking from all sides, while the seat is empty, indicating that the Buddha is not even there (knows he is not of this world, being in the mind). All of these in their different ways are powerful reminders how the distractions of the world and the ego serve no other purpose but to keep us rooted here, and we have the option to choose "another way" any time we wish. That is the power of the miracle, and to go back to Jesus, speaking in the Course:

4 The real meaning of the crucifixion lies in the intensity of the assault of some of the Sons of God upon another. 5 This, of course, is impossible, and must be fully understood impossible. 6 Otherwise, I cannot serve as a model for learning.
Unquote (ACIM:T-6.I.3:4-6)

Just like Jesus did not suffer on the cross because he knew he was not his body, in the same way the Buddha did not feel attacked by the demons. In the moment of choosing the miracle Patton could not feel attacked in the midst of the battlefield. And that experience demonstrates that any of us can choose the miracle any time. Curiously, the form of Patton's life would not make us think of him in any capacity as a spiritual teacher, yet he demonstrated again and again being in touch with our spiritual essence in a way that was truly remarkable. No wonder that besides reading his Bible, he was a student of the Bhagavad Gita, and must have accepted in a way like Arjuna that it was his dharma to be the best soldier he knew how to be, and that he did in spades. I always think of that scene on the battlefield as Patton's visit with Krishna.

Any of these stories, images and experiences serve as reminders for us when we feel again that it is impossible to practice what the Course teaches - and that is what the ego wants to teach us all the time with its myriad problems, challenges and distractions - that at any time we can "snap out of it" and choose the miracle.

The Course says:
Yet there will always be this place of rest to which you can return. 2 And you will be more aware of this quiet center of the storm than all its raging activity. 3 This quiet center, in which you do nothing, will remain with you, giving you rest in the midst of every busy doing on which you are sent. 4 For from this center will you be directed how to use the body sinlessly. 5 It is this center, from which the body is absent, that will keep it so in your awareness of it.
Unquote (ACIM:T-18.VII.8)

On another level there is also a powerful reminder here that while the miracle can result in changes on the level of form, that is not the point. This is one area where the ego has a tendency to hang us up, declaring our forgiveness practice a failure if the form does not change, at which point we should remind ourselves gently but firmly that this is not the point, inner peace is.

Or again, as the Course puts it:
7 Therefore, seek not to change the world, but choose to change your mind about the world. 8 Perception is a result and not a cause. 9 And that is why order of difficulty in miracles is meaningless. 10 Everything looked upon with vision is healed and holy. 11 Nothing perceived without it means anything. 12 And where there is no meaning, there is chaos.
Unquote (

Where is that quiet center? In the NT account (Mt. 6:27-29, 33) Jesus is reported as saying: "Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit to his stature? And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lillies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:... But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you."

Here then are so many reminders that the choice for peace is ours, any time we truly want it. And thus we know deep down that any time we are hanging on to our misery, stubborn like a dog hanging to a bone, it is not the world (demons, etc.) attacking us, but it is that we are not yet ready to truly ask for "another way," it is our ego wanting to be right and making Jesus wrong.

The secret of salvation is but this: that you are doing this unto yourself. 2 No matter what the form of the attack, this still is true. 3 Whoever takes the role of enemy and of attacker, still is this the truth. 4 Whatever seems to be the cause of any pain and suffering you feel, this is still true. 5 For you would not react at all to figures in a dream you knew that you were dreaming. 6 Let them be as hateful and as vicious as they may, they could have no effect on you unless you failed to recognize it is your dream.
Unquote (ACIM:T-27.VIII.10)

So: unless and until we take up our cross (take responsibility for our life) and decide to follow Jesus, we are choosing the crucifixion, not the resurrection. The only hope for salvation is that we should remember we do have a mind, and we can laugh away the tiny mad idea with by joining with Jesus. The choice is ours. As a final reminder to be gentle with ourselves the Course also says this:

Do not despair, then, because of limitations. 2 It is your function to escape from them, but not to be without them. 3 If you would be heard by those who suffer, you must speak their language. 4 If you would be a savior, you must understand what needs to be escaped. 5 Salvation is not theoretical. 6 Behold the problem, ask for the answer, and then accept it when it comes. 7 Nor will its coming be long delayed. 8 All the help you can accept will be provided, and not one need you have will not be met. 9 Let us not, then, be too concerned with goals for which you are not ready. 10 God takes you where you are and welcomes you. 11 What more could you desire, when this is all you need?
Unquote (ACIM:M-26.4)

Copyright, © 2005 Rogier F. van Vlissingen. All rights reserved.