Sunday, December 17, 2006

The Gary Myth

When The Disappearance of the Universe first appeared -- I can't resist these puns -- many did not realize how serious it was about being funny, and how much fun is a serious part of the journey home, for those of us who chose A Course In Miracles as our guide. If the problem with the separation thought was primarily that the Son of God forgot to laugh at it (cf. T-27.VIII.6:2), and instead took it, and thus his separate (false!) identity seriously, then learning to laugh at ourselves is quite obviously an integral part of the journey home, as in fact the same section reminds us, when Jesus invites us that, "Together, we can laugh them both away,..." in which "both" refers to the "tiny mad" idea (and its effects), which by dint of forgetting to laugh uproariously at its silliness, now becomes "a serious idea, and possbile of both accomplishment and real effects."

Funnily enough at the time of the appearance of the Disappearance, the established notion was that it was imposible to popularize the Course without compromising it, and yet this book proceeded to do just that, bringing the concepts into the vernacular without one iota of compromise to its core tenets. The lack of seriousness and formality, as well as a host of other (apparently) obvious shortcomings was promptly held against the book and its author in some circles, and clearly it is not for everyone, as is the case with the Course itself to begin with. But for those of us who vibrate to Gary's writing, the book is a welcome expansion of Course literature. I find myself at the point where it is, along with the sequel, Your Immortal Reality, an integral part of my work with the Course, and I make no secret of that.

Implicit in the books, Gary has clearly made the commitment of sharing a lot of his learning experiences with us, allowing us to speed up our own learning through the opportunity to empathize with the slapstick comedy of the "Life of Gary," and have yet another opportunity to begin to see the humor of our own presumed lives for what it is, as we start to make our way home by practicing the forgiveness process of the Course.

Along with all of that, these books also represent a pincer movement on Christianity, in the sense that, by establishing the solid core of the Thomas Gospel, as Pursah does in Your Immortal Reality, the continuity between Jesus of the early days and Jesus now in the Course is shown, through inner consistency of the teaching. It becomes clearer than ever that Jesus teaches what he always taught and will always teach, the point being that Jesus is not the character who lived in the dream 2000 years ago, but Jesus is who he always was, the resurrected son of God, the manifestation of the Holy Spirit, and the symbol of our ability to remember who we are in truth, as we learn to forget the victim script that is the ego's fundamental ploy for establishing its false identity in the dream in which we firmly believe that we are the effect of the world, and the victim of circumstance. Thus Jesus was not the suffering figure of the Christian mythology which was first conceptualized by Paul, and which was preserved for posterity through the editing process of the so-called canonical books of the New Testament, in a temporarily (for some 1500+ years) successful attempt to hijack the story of his life by re-interpretation for the purpose of religion building, and to immunize the world against his appeal to follow him (in spirit), and to do what he taught.

The dream of victimhood is expressed on many levels in the mythology of our lives, starting from being born from our parents, or being delivered by a stork, if you choose to believe that,  our existence literally "caused" by influences seemingly beyond our control. In a more general sense we think we are the product of either evolution or a supposed creation by an external God.  Both of those models are really rationalizations of the same thing, namely that the body is who we are, and the body is not our fault. We are saddled with it, and it is all we have to accomplish our "heroic"  journey in this life, which is doomed to failure, unless we were to remember that there might be "another way," and choose to find our way home.

If we do seek "another way" earnestly, we must of necessity realize slowly but surely that Help on the journey home cannot come from the other inmates in the asylum (our babbling "friends" as they are described in the story of Job), who also believe this world is our home, and the primary symbol in the Western world of how that Help (Yehoshua=God's Help, or God Helps), shows up is Jesus, or as Gary prefers, J, the J guy, etc.

Arten and Purshah, representing Thaddeus and Thomas in Gary's experience merely testify to the reality of Jesus and his teaching, both then and now. The question is not at all if Arten and Pursah are "real," as some of Gary's detractors have made it out to be, the question is only can we follow in the spirit of Gary's example in our own lives, and accept the Guidance in the form it comes to us, and never mind how many times we fall down, just get up, dust ourselves off, and continue to practice forgiveness. So the question also is not why Arten and Pursah don't show up in my life, such is merely another ego ploy not to accept the Help in the form it is available to me, by whining that I want what Gary has. In reality it is not about the form of Gary's experience, that is as unsubstantial as anything - the stuff that dreams are made of - it is about the content of his story. He shares with us the story of that experience, for those of us who want to walk the same path.

The supposed 'controversy' (those who seek it will find it!) around Gary boils down to another exercise in vicarious salvation, which is perennially the kind the ego prefers. It did in Christianity, and it does now. In making a religion out of Jesus' teachings, Paul and those after him, diverted attention from the fact that "the secret of Salvation is but this, that you are doing this unto yourself," (ACIM:T-27.VIII.10:1) and that we need to change our mind, the Greek word for which was metanoia, which does not mean conversion (to Christianity), but it does evidently mean exactly what it says, changing your mind, just like Jesus still teaches in the Course. In stead by believing that Jesus sacrificed himself for our sins, we would escape from the need to do the hard work ourselves, and we can continue to "believe" the lie that is our so-called life. No wonder Paul became more popular than Jesus, for he promised in effect that we could have our cake and eat it too. The choice now became simply one of do you accept Jesus as your savior (Paul's story that Jesus saves us),  or do you not. And so a new dualism arises between those who think that when they come to the pearly gates, all they need to do is say: "I was with Jesus, honest!" or, alternatively: "I always knew he was a fraud, honest!"

Therefore, as is reflected in a recent article by Dr. Michael Mirdad about the "Gary controversy," the underlying dynamic is the wish to make a religion out of the Course. And we now get two parties who are in each other's hair, and the one party believes that when they come to the pearly gates, all they need to say is: "But I was with Gary, honest!" and the other party will tell St. Peter: "I always knew he was a fraud, I even wrote about it!" And so the attention once again has been diverted from our own need to forgive, and to heal our relationship with God, to something going on outside of us, and the ego wins again.

Instead, the only thing that matters is your own practice of the Course, and if Gary's books work for you, use them. If they don't appeal to you, leave them aside. And if you don't like the Course, choose another path.

Copyright, © 2007 Rogier F. van Vlissingen. All rights reserved.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

The Holy Encounter

As Jan Willem Kaiser wrote at one point "... therefore every encounter between people is holy." (The book in question is not yet avalable in English.)

The Course discusses this concept extensively also in Chapter 8, Section 3, The Holy Encounter, where it says among other things:

When you meet anyone, remember it is a holy encounter. 2 As you see him you will see yourself. 3 As you treat him you will treat yourself. 4 As you think of him you will think of yourself. 5 Never forget this, for in him you will find yourself or lose yourself. 6 Whenever two Sons of God meet, they are given another chance at salvation. 7 Do not leave anyone without giving salvation to him and receiving it yourself. 8 For I am always there with you, in remembrance of

Making the other choice will be facilitated by our growing awareness as we practice the Course, that the ego is never an original thought. In order to choose to be part of the whole, you have to have had the whole first, which the ego then splits off from and denies its existence. So in the world we then make up every encounter we have is a reminder of our self which gives us the choice to act out the ego-choice all over again, and engage in another episode of the ego's soap opera, or to choose the Holy Spirit as our guide to lead us home and our brother with us, as the love we now reflect in our actions is extended through us. Hence lesson 342 says:

Brother, forgive me now. 2 I come to you to take you home with me. 3 And as we go, the world goes with us on our way to God.
unquote (ACIM:W-342.2:1-3)

The Course states in the "Hero" of the Dream section:
How willing are you to escape effects of all the dreams the world has ever had? 2 Is it your wish to let no dream appear to be the cause of what it is you do? 3 Then let us merely look upon the dream's beginning, for the part you see is but the second part, whose cause lies in the first. 4 No one asleep and dreaming in the world remembers his attack upon himself.
unquote (ACIM:T-27.VIII.4:1-4)

And so it is in every encounter that we have in the world, we are not in touch with our own choice to see ourselves as an individual first, and thus our brother as a stranger, outside ourselves, whom we accuse of stealing the peace of God from us, and we are intent on getting it back either by seduction (special love) or by attack (special hate). As we act this out, we are seeing only the effect in the dream, and not our choice (for the ego) which caused the dream in the first place.  And so it is we need a reminder that every encounter indeed is a holy encounter, in which we always have the opportunity to "choose once again," and choose to go home with our brother instead of perpetuating the ego's drama.

Should we choose to replace the miracle impulses with physical action, and choose the ego's drama, the Course discusses some of the consequences in the last section of Chapter 1, The Distortion of Miracle Impulses as follows:

Your distorted perceptions produce a dense cover over miracle impulses, making it hard for them to reach your own awareness. 2 The confusion of miracle impulses with physical impulses is a major perceptual distortion. 3 Physical impulses are misdirected miracle impulses. 4 All real pleasure comes from doing God's Will. 5 This is because not doing it is a denial of Self. 6 Denial of Self results in illusions, while correction of the error brings release from it. 7 Do not deceive yourself into believing that you can relate in peace to God or to your brothers with anything external.
unquote (ACIM:T-1.VII.1:1-7)

And so in every encounter we can choose to experience yet once again that we cannot truly relate to our brothers in peace with anything external, however much we try. The important thing about this is that we start to see that there is a continuous opportunity to make the other choice. This realization closely relates to the Course's observation in the section The Ego and False Autonomy:

It is reasonable to ask how the mind could ever have made the ego. 2 In fact, it is the best question you could ask. 3 There is, however, no point in giving an answer in terms of the past because the past does not matter, and history would not exist if the same errors were not being repeated in the present. 4 Abstract thought applies to knowledge because knowledge is completely impersonal, and examples are irrelevant to its understanding. 5 Perception, however, is always specific, and therefore quite concrete.
unquote (ACIM:T-4.II.1)

And it is in our relationships that as children from the ego we always seek to reenact the past, and set ourselves up as a victim all over again, firmly believing we are overcoming the past, when in fact we are setting ourselves up to repeat it, unless and until we make the other choice, which breaks us free of our "predestination," and sets us on the way to freedom with our brother. On this path in one form or another we come to what the Course describes as the holiest spot on earth:

The holiest of all the spots on earth is where an ancient hatred has become a present love. 2 And They come quickly to the living temple, where a home for Them has been set up. 3 There is no place in Heaven holier. 4 And They have come to dwell within the temple offered Them, to be Their resting place as well as yours. 5 What hatred has released to love becomes the brightest light in Heaven's radiance. 6 And all the lights in Heaven brighter grow, in gratitude for what has been restored.
unquote (ACIM:t-26.IX.6)

And so it is that it is in our very relationships, in what is "in front of our face," as the Thomas Gospel expresses it, that we have the sacred opportunity for healing, whenever we choose the Holy Spirit as our guide. The comment about the Distortion of Miracle Impulses that was cited above reflects how the recognition of our Self, which is inherent in every Encounter is immediately hi-jacked by the ego and translated into a transaction at the bodily level, where communication is by definition impossible, and by nature that is the ego's goal to prevent communication, since that rests on unity, and a denial of the separation.

Copyright, © 2006 Rogier F. van Vlissingen. All rights reserved.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

From Thomas to Jefferson, and on to The Five Gospels

Under the title of this essay the reader will find a link to the Jefferson Bible, which is now available on the web in its entirety, including some of the introductory materials. So far my favorite edition of the Jefferson Bible is the one from Beacon Press in 1989, which has an introduction by Forrest Church and an afterword by Jaroslav Pelikan. It is a pleasant edition, and fairly serviceable, but it also has some annoying inconsistencies.

To wit, in the introduction Forrest Church adduces some of the crucial correspondence in which Jefferson provided an accounting for his purpose and his method in the compilation. However, where Jeffersons purpose was clearly an attempt to hear the teachings of Jesus amidst the din of the teachings about him by Paul and those who followed, it was inevitable that he should dismiss the writings of Paul from consideration, as he did the entire Old Testament, as well as most of the rest of the New. Pelikan in his afterword addresses Jefferson's frame of mind in this regard in the context of the Enlightenment, and quotes from a choice passage about Paul in Jefferson's April 13th 1820 letter to William Short, which in the original reads as follows:

... I separate, therefore, the gold from the dross; restore to Him the former, and leave the latter to the stupidity of some, and roguery of others of His disciples. Of this band of dupes and impostors, Paul was the great Coryphaeus, and first corrupter of the doctrines of Jesus. These palpable interpolations and falsifications of His doctrines, led me to try to sift them apart. I found the work obvious and easy, and that His past composed the most beautiful morsel of morality which has been given to us by man. The syllabus is therefore of His doctrines, not all of mine. I read them as I do those of other ancient and modern moralists, with a mixture of approbation and dissent...

Regrettably, while Church does include part of this very letter in the introduction, he truncates it after "... and roguery of others of His disciples," without even indicating with an ellipsis that something was left off, and so, when you try to find the letter Pelikan quotes in the afterword, you will be at a loss for this very relevant material, unless you did as I did and turn to the Internet. Pelikan meanwhile disappoints us a bit by his seeming upset at the daring of the third US President in his editing, which seems unwarranted, since Jefferson's honest purpose was to hear the words of the teacher, without the distortions of later commentators and editors that seemed obvious to him. Other than that, this is a nice edition.

The important point of Jefferson's work and results is first and foremost that anyone who wanted to try to understand Jesus could have done what Jefferson did, and dismissed the theological and interpretive framing of the stories, focusing on the words themselves, and following their own intuition as to the consistency of his teachings. It is very lovely to see how Jefferson even notes that he does not necessarily agree with all of what he thinks Jesus said, but simply focuses on trying to hear the consistency of the material, and leaves off anything that appears spurious. And by doing so he ends up with an edition which now, two hundred years later, and with the benefit of hindsight we should call truly remarkable. One way of looking at just how remarkable it was, is to realize the very high level of correspondence with the Thomas Gospel, which would not be discovered until almost a hundred and fifty years later. And yet we now see that the Thomas Gospel has a higher level than authenticity than the canonical materials, thus indirectly vindicating Jefferson's attempt at least in large part.

Thomas Jefferson in his editing certainly did not fall for the temptation which The Jesus Seminar points out in the introduction to its publication The Five Gospels, which is a remarkable attempt to bring together in one volume the canonical gospels and Thomas, in a very lively new translation, relatively free of theological prejudice. In the introduction on what they call the seven pillars of critical Bible scholarship, they end with warning us for a temptation they describe as follows: "Beware of finding a Jesus entirely congenial to you." (The Five Gospels, p. 5) As students of A Course In Miracles, we might see this admonition as a wonderful corollary to the various teachings in the Course which urge us to come up to Jesus' level in lieu of pulling Jesus down to our level. Christian theology has always busied itself with pulling Jesus down into the world, and explaining him in those terms, the path of spiritual growth does the opposite by listening to Jesus and letting him pull us up to his level. One specific passage in the Course stands out in this regard, in Lesson 80, Let me recognize my problems have been solved, and it goes as follows:

If you are willing to recognize your problems, you will recognize that you have no problems. 2 Your one central problem has been answered, and you have no other. 3 Therefore, you must be at peace. 4 Salvation thus depends on recognizing this one problem, and understanding that it has been solved. 5 One problem, one solution. 6 Salvation is accomplished. 7 Freedom from conflict has been given you. 8 Accept that fact, and you are ready to take your rightful place in God's plan for salvation.
Your only problem has been solved! 2 Repeat this over and over to yourself today, with gratitude and conviction. 3 You have recognized your only problem, opening the way for the Holy Spirit to give you God's answer. 4 You have laid deception aside, and seen the light of truth. 5 You have accepted salvation for yourself by bringing the problem to the answer. 6 And you can recognize the answer, because the problem has been identified.
unquote (ACIM:W-80.1-2)

Or to put it in more philosophical terms, the world's theologies are always dualistic, since they directly or indirectly make the world real, preferably explicitly by blaming God for creating it. Jesus on the other hand teaches pure non-dualism, and his teaching of forgiveness, which we now have in much greater depth in the form of A Course In Miracles, teaches us the way out.
Yet even today compromise of the Course's teachings with various attempts to still make the world real is as widespread as it was in the early days of emergent Christianity.

Meanwhile, to return to our consideration of the traditional textual material, since The Jesus Seminar did put Mark up front - an editorial revision of the New Testament which was long overdue - they might as well have put Thomas ahead of that. This is not mere form. Our reading of Mark most of all would change forever if we should read the Thomas Gospel first. The minimal Pauline varnish present in Mark, such as verbiage about the symbolism of the Eucharist, would soon chip away, and we might see a significant shift in our view of Jesus, in which the Markan account preserves a freshness that is increasingly edited out in the later Gospels.

In summary, The Five Gospels is a remarkable book indeed, and truly perhaps the best source available today to access the historical documents about Jesus. And aside from the undeniable fact of the influence of the King James Bible on the English language, and therefore a certain need to stay conversant with it if only for the sake of literary references, such as those in the Course, this might be my favorite Bible edition, right next to the little gem that is the Jefferson Bible.

Copyright, © 2006 Rogier F. van Vlissingen. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Duality all over again

The following started with a thread on Course Talk, in which I took part, titled One in Nature, not in number. Subsequently I decided that it might pay to expand upon my response, since this is an issue that appears to come up with some frequency. The original writer posed that the notion of "One in nature, not in number," might be a way of understanding the Course's concept of oneness on an operational level. It should be evident to attentive readers that much rather it turns the Course teaching on its ear.

Amidst what seems to be a cottage industry of Course interpretation, which makes the silent assumption that the Course should need interpretation, one of the favorite pastimes boils down to finding byways to re-introduce and justify the ego's implied belief in duality, and thus to have your cake and eat it too: appearing to embrace the Course, and honoring the ego and the world at the same time. Besides the clarifications of this issue that can be found in the Course, which are too numerous to repeat here, it may be helpful however to consider some other issues, both historical and current.

As is now evident from internal evidence the original teaching of Jesus was better preserved in the Thomas Gospel than in the so-called "canonical" gospels, where the needs of the story-tellers, and the first stirrings of theological interpretation of Jesus' teaching are beginning to be felt, which finds its origin (within the canonical tradition) in the writings of Paul, whose early work pre-dates the synoptics, but not Thomas. And of course the internal consistency of GoTh reflects a non-dualism that is completely in-line with ACIM.

Historically Paul then lays the ground work for a theological interpretation of Jesus, and lays the foundation for what we call Christianity, including such key notions as the Second Coming meaning Jesus' return to this world, rather than us following him out of it. By striving for a consistent interpretation in ego terms, i.e. consistency in form, the inner consistency of Jesus' teachings, never mind the whole Biblical tradition, is compromised and a forced consistency in form is theologically imposed on the Bible as God's revealed word. One way of looking at it very bluntly is that if the Bible does not have a consistent meaning an emerging priesthood does not have any jobsecurity. Essentially the "mysteries of faith" arise wherever it is impossible to explain a non-dualistic teaching in dualistic terms, and hence these "mysteries" are jealously guarded by the priesthood and not open to question, rather accepting them becomes the basis of their brand of salvation, which as we all know has proven to be highly marketable, in by now some 25,000 flavors. All these varieties of interpretation are ultimately possible only because there can not be a consistent way of explaining non-dualism in dualistic terms.

Much of the misunderstandings around the Course amount to the same issue. The Course is consistent in content, not in form, for reasons it carefully explains, namely our reality is non-dualistic, but we're having this dream of a dualistic existence, and the Course meets us where we are. Now if a Course-theology is attempted to impose a consistency in form on the Course which it doesn't have, the result could conceivably be 25,000 "Course denominations," because the answers multiply once we go down this path (just add yeast, sugar, and some global warming, and give it 2,000 years). Likewise people who make their living interpreting the Course along such lines have need of justifying their interepretations by speaking of Ken Wapnick's "interpretation," when that is the one thing Ken Wapnick does not do. Instead he painstakingly explains the Course on the Course's terms, following strictly and only its strict consistency of content, and allowing for its apparent contradictions in form, by understanding obvious metaphors metaphorically.

Obviously to the ego this is intolerable, and hence the not infrequent, but entirely unjustified notion of Ken's "interpretation" of the Course is given currency. Strictly speaking one could only use that term by either not fully reading the Course in one piece, or if the writer perhaps did not read English very well. And so the groundwork is laid for many possible interpretations, as in fact the Course clearly explains the ego will always do, in pursuing the first law of chaos, that the truth is different for everyone. The prime example of this is surely Robert Perry's book "One Course, Two Visions," the title of which surely says enough.

A recent episode in Miracles Magazine concerning the work of Gary Renard reflects the same issues. If nothing else Gary is very forceful in upholding and presenting the nondualism of the Course and does not compromise that message one iota, and he came under attack in Miracles Magazine by a parade of writers who dedicate themselves to presentations of the Course in which they sneak in non-dualism in various forms and degrees through the side door, as has been proudly documented in the above book, which by its title alone makes a joke of the internal consistency of the Course.

The bottom line on all of this is that the mistakes are the same now as they were two thousand years ago, and simply demonstrate in so many ways how the ego in all of us constantly seeks to compromise the uncompromising nature of reality, in order to hang on to the validity of the self-concept it wants to sell us on. And as long as we keep wanting to be sold on it, we'll buy for it is only our choice that makes and empowers the ego. And as the Course points out, our fondness for it can be understood only because we made it.

Copyright, © 2006 Rogier F. van Vlissingen. All rights reserved.

The Parable of DU

"The Disappearance of the Universe," or "DU" as it is affectionately known among ACIM literati, is a metaphor, just like anything else is metaphor, once we begin to appreciate that all duality is always metaphor.

And presently we wait with bated breath on the sequel, "Your Immortal Reality," and some exchanges have already begun on-line with people who have read the book already.  I am in fact reading it as I write down these notes.

It may make sense to take a step back and look at the metaphor presented by DU. In it Gary, a lovable, stumbling, and bumbling fellow who is not hard to empathize or identify with, follows his spiritual longings as best he can without making any particularly dramatic headway, until at one point two people show up in his life, seemingly out of nowhere, in order to help Gary make major progress in his spiritual work, and who towards the end of the story reveal themselves as his own self from another (future) incarnation, and formerly the apostle Thomas, as well as well as the former apostle Thaddeus, in the form of one of his future incarnations, who however has a relationship with Gary in this current lifetime in another form, which he leaves for Gary (and us) to guess about.

The point perhaps is that it is our own self and closest friends showing up as help on the path, in whatever form that is most helpful to us, and of course never one that induces fear, and... as some episodes make clear sometimes even without us knowing it. As much as people seem to think that if only they had such apparitions in their lives, then they would really believe, the truth is most of us would call the police. For Gary apparently the fear was low enough that a deeper feeling of recognition set in, and he tuned into his sense of familiarity and trust, instead of fear. Along the way in the story it is evident that even if they're not there physically, they are still helping him in other dimensions. The implication is that as we are healing we do get lots of help, in whatever form we can accept and recognize, though often we don't know it, or at least not right away.

Some of the comments that have been floating around on the forums seem to note the "exclusivity" of Arten and Pursah to Gary, which seems like a spurious comment, for my identities from prior lives would be unique to me as A&P are to Gary, though in the long run of course we represent one self. But the bottom line is the implication of the book is not about
A&P excluding us from the kingdom as such comments imply, but simply that Gary has his A&P, and we all have our own "self" from other times watching over us like a guardian angel, we just may not have a physical experience like Gary did. The message is hardly that he's got it, and we're lost at sea. Rather, if a poor shlepp like Gary can get it, so can we, so there's hope.

So for one thing the message is that if Gary can, so can we, and on another level perhaps we cannot meet Arten and Pursah in the way Gary experienced them but we can meet Gary either through his book or in a workshop, and we all have our own Artens and Pursah's, if we know it or not, right in our own lives, that is the message of hope the book conveys, that we don't go this path alone. Gary is the demonstration of that. And Thomas Logion 52 may be recalled at this point too, for it is a favorite ego trick to ask for something more suitable (to the ego), in order to deny what's right in front of us. Ignoring the opportunity for salvation that's in front of us, until a better one arrives is standard ego fare. To the ego no path will ever be good enough,  unless the ego stays in charge, and that is why it always seeks to have the final "imprimatur," and that is why only dead prophets are safe in its view.

GoTh. 52 (GR version):
The disciples said to him, "Twenty-four prophets have spoken in Israel, and they all spoke of you." He said to them: "You have disregarded the living one who is in your presence, and have spoken of the dead."

Copyright, © 2006 Rogier F. van Vlissingen. All rights reserved.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Now about those Tongues

After ten years of talking about the French translation of the Course, which finally arrived this spring, I finally did my first introductory workshop at the Gallery of my friend Samuel Augustin ( on Saturday 08/12/2006. In the process I've started to read the book in French just to get "tuned in" to the French word choices, in order hopefully to make my usage consistent with the translated Course, rather than making it up from English and risk causing confusion.

Like always, this undertaking turns out to be a gift to myself, for suddenly even the first few chapters of the Course are hitting me with a fresh power that really blew my mind. I guess it is easier to read right over what it says in English for you think you know it already. And so, right from the outset,this experience seems to be offering a new twist on the idea that you teach what you need to learn.

I have not yet dared to really start reading the Course in my native Dutch. Something is holding me back, it just seems odd or too pedestrian in Dutch.

Having said that, I am profoundly impressed with the fact that translating is impossible, and would recommend to any foreign language students that if they can do it at all they should consult the English text from time to time. From the notes in all the foreign editions it is clear that the greatest sacrifice is the link to the KJV of the Bible, which seems so organic with the Course in English, but is lost in the translation to any other language.

Other interesting issues turn up as well, such as the fact that Dutch does not really have a viable word for "mind," and so a neologism was created for the purpose of the translation. I'm sure that my further work with the translations will lead to some interesting new observations from time to time.

Copyright, © 2006 Rogier F. van Vlissingen. All rights reserved.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Misquoting Jesus, Bart D. Ehrman

Ehrman gives us another gem, both for its ability to provide a readable introduction to some heavy duty scholarly stuff, as well as for his honesty in terms of his own growth process, coming from a fundamentalist background, taking the Bible as the literal word of God, to learning the fallibility of the processes which have given us what we think is the Bible. From being The Book, it becomes a book. An interesting book perhaps, but just a book.

Besides giving us a lively understanding of the trees, the micro issues of textual criticism, and thus helping any reader to demythologize the cult of the Bible in Western tradition, he also backs up to show us the forest and helps us to disaggregate the books and traditions of the Bible, so we can become more critical readers on the level of meaning and the coloration of certain books and authors within the Bible.

Christianity has always strived to interpret the Bible as a whole, and then ends up disagreeing about which whole, and splitting up in a thousand different sects over that. I will never forget two churches at the end of one particular dike in my native Holland which disagreed over exactly one word in one sentence. But feelings ran high over that one word, I assure you.

To students of the Course some understanding of these issues may be helpful to us, since it underlines some of the corrections provided in the Course, where Jesus in some cases out and out corrects the Bible, and in other cases suggest simply different ways of interpreting the Bible. Having an appreciation for the fallibility of the tradition based on textual criticism makes it easier to appreciate where he's coming from in this regard.

When Ehrman gets around to discussing the view from 30,000 feet of the books of the NT at the end of his book, he starts by sorting out the relationships of the four canonical gospels, and making clear their chronological order, as well as how much they are NOT saying the same things. The high point perhaps, which is a point that has escaped Christians for too long already is when he says:
The message of Paul is both like and unlike what we find in the Gospels (he doesn't say much about Jesus' words or deeds, for example, but focuses on what for Paul were the critical issues, that Christ died on the cross and was raised from the dead). (Misquoting Jesus, p. 215.)

Coming from the standpoint of A Course In Miracles, it can be even more startling to realize the levels of distortion we are subjected to in the Biblical tradition, for translations are another layer of complication, and not only in the sense Ehrman identifies. It is very evident that the translations compounded the problems of understanding immeasurably, and this is evident even when you consult standard works like Bauer's Dictionary of NT Greek, for by treating NT Greek as a dialect and ignoring the time element within it, a homogeneity in usage is suggested which is not really there. One of the key examples of that is the word "metanoia," which in Jesus' usage is quite obviously what it means literally namely "change of mind," but in the usage of Paul it becomes more and more "repentance" and "conversion" as the focus shifts to a dialectic about Jesus, and  a belief in Jesus the Savior, and the Christian version of God, in a way which is a more rational process and a worldly confession of beliefs, not a following of Jesus in changing our mind like he was showing us to do in his life. To highlight this issue even more, the following passage from the Psychotherapy pamphlet, that belongs organically to ACIM as well, can be helpful:

Yet it is not the awareness of God that constitutes a reasonable goal for psychotherapy. 2 This will come when psychotherapy is complete, for where there is forgiveness truth must come. 3 It would be unfair indeed if belief in God were necessary to psychotherapeutic success. 4 Nor is belief in God a really meaningful concept, for God can be but known. 5 Belief implies that unbelief is possible, but knowledge of God has no true opposite. 6 Not to know God is to have no knowledge, and it is to this that all unforgiveness leads. 7 And without knowledge one can have only belief.

The ego's God, which is a projection is in need of belief, and so is Paul's reconstruction of Jesus. Thus the pervasive need to proselytize is merely part of the symptomology of another set of ego beliefs because they are not based on truth. After all, truth needs no defense, and is not dependent on anyone "accepting" it.
Pulling Jesus down into the ego-realm of belief/unbelief, is accomplished by focusing on the words, not the experience and the inner knowing of truth. The Course's answer to that issue is:

1. Strictly speaking, words play no part at all in healing. 2 The motivating factor is prayer, or asking. 3 What you ask for you receive. 4 But this refers to the prayer of the heart, not to the words you use in praying. 5 Sometimes the words and the prayer are contradictory; sometimes they agree. 6 It does not matter. 7 God does not understand words, for they were made by separated minds to keep them in the illusion of separation. 8 Words can be helpful, particularly for the beginner, in helping concentration and facilitating the exclusion, or at least the control, of extraneous thoughts. 9 Let us not forget, however, that words are but symbols of symbols. 10 They are thus twice removed from reality. (ACIM:M-21.1)

And in the final end ACIM makes it completely clear that it is the inner experience, and not the words and the book which matter, when it says: Forget this world, forget this course, and come with wholly empty hands unto your God. (ACIM:W-189.7:5)

Conversely then it should become clear to us by experience that even the choices of words in translating the NT, and in some cases even the conclusions in textual criticism might be very different if an understanding of Jesus' teachings were a prerequisite, rather than merely a degree in Greek. And thus for the Course student who was perhaps raised with Christian influences once they have a solid footing in the Course, they might decide to do some time what Jesus recommends in passing a few times, which is to read the Bible from the point of view of the Holy Spirit's thought system of love, insteady of from a stand point of the ego's fear, and a whole different picture emerges.

Copyright, © 2006 Rogier F. van Vlissingen. All rights reserved.

Lost Christianities, Bart D. Ehrman

I'm really enjoying the work of Bart D. Ehrman. In the last few years I've read most of his books. He has a very straightforward writing style and a good way of presenting complicated things in an understandable manner. Of the bookshelves I have read about early Christianity, this is easily the most worthwhile book for anyone who just wants an orientation and an overview.

In very plain terms Ehrman lays out the story of the incredible variety of religious phenomena which flourished prior to the emergence of anything we recognize as Christianity, and he also has a sense of humor about it in pointing out that the proliferation which preceded the emergence of the Roman Church by now has led to a proliferation of sects and religions which have split off from that church again that is almost as rich and varied or more as it was back then. He constantly focuses the mind on the fact that there was no defined NT at first and there was no Christianity as we think of it today for the first few hundred years.

The great service this book renders is by showing the forest without getting lost in the trees of the many bizarre variations of those early years, many of which would seem very alien to us indeed because  they are interwoven with many religious forms and beliefs that are definitely from another time and another place, and can confuse us - a frequent problem with many books that seek to cover this material. And yet he quotes sufficient detail for the reader to come away with a feeling of a real taste of this incredible world that was the crucible from which Christianity emerged, and which in the process eliminated, suppressed, destroyed, or buried a huge amount of divergent beliefs that all at one time or another identified with the teachings of Jesus.

The one and only minus point about the book is that Ehrman is too much of a Christian to accord the gospel of Thomas the position it has in the eyes of more and more scholars, so rather than recognize that it represents a pre-Pauline tradition of fairly reliable sayings of Jesus, he dismisses it from serious consideration on grounds that I find to convoluted to even try to repeat. The interesting part here is that Ehrman describes in other places how his own voyage of discovery as a student and scholar has much loosened his own views of his religion from his early fundamentalist days, quite evidently the Thomas material represents too much of a challenge for him to embrace a positive view of it. I tend to look at this as a professional blind spot, and I just deal with it, just like you try to stay out of the blind spot of an 18-wheeler on the highway.

In the greater scheme of things I do find that the mischaracterazation of Thomas is a fatal flaw, since I find nothing more important than to realize that Jesus truly was the wisdom teacher we find in the Thomas Gospel, and not the idolized savior that Paul and those who followed made of him, who certainly had no interest at all in founding a new religion. But with that proviso the rest of the book provides enough to make it worthwhile, particularly if you don't expect to read much else on those early years, for there isn't much available that is this compact and informative. And with the Thomas Gospel and a few other sources, the reader is obviously at liberty to chart their own course.

Copyright, © 2006 Rogier F. van Vlissingen. All rights reserved.

Religion and Religions

Formal religion has no place in psychotherapy, but it also has no real place in religion. 2 In this world, there is an astonishing tendency to join contradictory words into one term without perceiving the contradiction at all. 3 The attempt to formalize religion is so obviously an ego attempt to reconcile the irreconcilable that it hardly requires elaboration here. 4 Religion is experience; psychotherapy is experience. 5 At the highest levels they become one. 6 Neither is truth itself, but both can lead to truth. 7 What can be necessary to find truth, which remains perfectly obvious, but to remove the seeming obstacles to true awareness?

As true religion heals, so must true psychotherapy be religious.

Thus the Course (in the Psychotherapy pamphlet) here makes a distinction between true religion and religion, and thus makes a distinction which reminds me of J.W. Kaiser's essay Religion and Religions, which is included in his Four Open Field Books, in which in a manner quite similar to the Course he uses Religion with a capital "R" in the same vein as "true religion,"and religions, plural, as the worldly institutions with which we're all familiar, which seem to mostly confine themselves to systems of morality and codes of conduct for the world. Kaiser sees Religion as the path we go to God, in so many different forms, and so in that respect his usage could also be compared to the Course's notion of the "universal course," of which ACIM is then only one form.

Evidently the Course comes in this Judaic-Christian (Abrahamic) framework, and uses that as background for its teaching of true spirituality, using the terminology from that tradition and perhaps with a bit of a pun, quite in the spirit of the way Jesus speaks to us throughout the Course, we could understand it's message along the following lines:

1. Prepare you for the undoing of what never was. 2 If you already understood the difference between truth and illusion, the Atonement would have no meaning. 3 The holy instant, the holy relationship, the Holy Spirit's teaching, and all the means by which salvation is accomplished, would have no purpose. 4 For they are all but aspects of the plan to change your dreams of fear to happy dreams, from which you waken easily to knowledge. 5 Put yourself not in charge of this, for you cannot distinguish between advance and retreat. 6 Some of your greatest advances you have judged as failures, and some of your deepest retreats you have evaluated as success.

And one way of understanding these words might be that he could be pointing out that the "greatest advances" which we fool ourselves into believing we made, i.e. to establish these world-religions, are really our greatest retreats, because they served only to prevent us from hearing the spiritual truths we were being offered. They are literally the ego's defenses against the truth, developed in a very sophisticated and seductive ego way, by seemingly coopting the words, but compromising the content by pulling it down into the world, into duality.

Hence Gary Renard in DU gets to write (And the quote is also on his "Enlightnment cards"):

The world needs another religion like it needs a bigger hole in the ozone layer.

Which is said quite in the same spirit as Jesus' comment in the NT: Don't you still understand that I wasn't speaking to you of "breads?" In other words, then also he was having a tough time pointing out to the apostles (us) that he was talking content, and they were stubbornly hearing form. We are blessed with the Course, which is much clearer, and more explicit, and harder to misunderstand than anything that went before, but if you look around, we're busy trying!

To come back to some more terminology from the Course, experience is the crucial distinction, in a way which Kaiser also emphasizes in his essay Religion and Religions:

All terms are potentially controversial, and those who seek controversy will find it. 2 Yet those who seek clarification will find it as well. 3 They must, however, be willing to overlook controversy, recognizing that it is a defense against truth in the form of a delaying maneuver. 4 Theological considerations as such are necessarily controversial, since they depend on belief and can therefore be accepted or rejected. 5 A universal theology is impossible, but a universal experience is not only possible but necessary. 6 It is this experience toward which the course is directed. 7 Here alone consistency becomes possible because here alone uncertainty ends.

And so is the history of religions for the most part one of a confusion of ends and means, where "success" in Christianity as in other world religions, hinges on successfully explaining the meaning of this life, and thus subverting the very uncomfortable spiritual truth that it is utterly without meaning, except as a learning opportunity on our path to salvation in which we come to realize that it isn't what it's cracked up to be. That's why all great spiritual teachings need their popularizers to turn them into world religions, and to permanently obfuscate their spiritual message.

Kaiser in his essay puts it like this:

No man has been so passionately deified as Jesus of Nazareth, the man who manifested God's Will as no man did before or after and confirmed this for all times by his complete rejection of compromising with "the ways of the world," his complete rejection of Power, and his complete surrender to Suffering, confirmed in action. All others yielded somehow to Power. And yet this deification is nothing but a psychological trick to justify our failure to follow him by making him the exception, whose fulfillment exempts us from the task.

This is the difference between Service to God and religions, and it is useless to quarrel about it, even though that is what they have always done.
For the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and no man will ever find truth by theorizing. For truth only reveals itself to him who surrenders to it, and reunion with the Supreme takes place only when an individual finally and entirely merges into Him, losing all horizontal relations, losing his personal existence, losing his individual "life," but gaining Universal Life, which is Eternal Life.

Kaiser's way of looking at the suffering aspect of Jesus' final experiences in the world, lacks the clarity of the Course, in that he did not suffer because he knew he was not his body, though in essence it captures the notion that avoiding the lessons presented in our classrooms in this life is an ego stalling tactic, whereas if we are in our right mind we would not be bothered by the form, but be grateful for the lesson. And, most importantly his next point captures very sharply the fact that the deification and idolization of Jesus in Christianity is an avoidance tactic of the ego, where it is justified theologically that Jesus should suffer in our place so we would not have to, which is the true purport of vicarious salvation. And thus rather than changing our mind as Jesus asks us in his teaching, we pretend that we can get away with not doing so, and letting him dangle on the cross instead. Or, in other words, we will do anything to NOT do what Jesus asked, i.e. to take up our cross and follow him, including to justify theologically that we don't have to, and such is the basis of a world religion, which is why it is a world religions. The Emperor Constantine knew how to pick his allies.

Copyright, © 2006 Rogier F. van Vlissingen. All rights reserved.

The Bitter Idols

Is he the Christ? 2 O yes, along with you. 3 His little life on earth was not enough to teach the mighty lesson that he learned for all of you. 4 He will remain with you to lead you from the hell you made to God. 5 And when you join your will with his, your sight will be his vision, for the eyes of Christ are shared. 6 Walking with him is just as natural as walking with a brother whom you knew since you were born, for such indeed he is. 7 Some bitter idols have been made of him who would be only brother to the world. 8 Forgive him your illusions, and behold how dear a brother he would be to you. 9 For he will set your mind at rest at last and carry it with you unto your God.

Idols must fall they have no life, and what is lifeless is a sign of death.

Idols inevitably are ego artifacts, they are forms substituting for content, and an attempt to freeze-dry spirit, and keep it around for a rainy day in a form, a graven image.

And since death can never symbolize life, the idols are bound to disappoint, since the hollow pseudo-content the ego ascribes to them as a sort of a charm to reinforce its view of the world, can never pass the test of time.

The business of forgiving Jesus for not living up to the idols we made of him is particularly important. Different aspects will play up for different people, but in some form all of us have to deal with it at some time in order to straighten out our relations with Jesus, and starting to see him for what he is, and not our misconceptions of him. The gospel drama as told in the NT offers an interesting list of idols, which is pretty comprehensive, if not exhaustive:

Successively Jesus is seen as: 
  • the Savior King, the King of the Jews, and the crowds shout out: Hoseannah!
  • But he bitterly disappoints by evolving into the defenseless wimp that he seems to be in front of Pontius Pilate, and we promptly chime in with the crowds: Crucify him!
  • As the suffering Body on the Cross, he sends a message of Guilt, and as one of the subsequent pastimes of good Christians everywhere, a scapegoat must be found, with the predictable result, even if utterly without any historical merit, but: Blame the Jews!
  • And when the scene changes we now have--as a construct of the new sacrificial theology of Paul, with its vicarious salvation as a sort of reductio ad absurdum of the "pagan" ritual of sacrifice-- the Lamb of God, who meekly dies for our sins. 
  • And the further development of the same theology sub-sequently produces the idolization of the body (not the spirit) in the Second Coming, which is held out similar to the magical expectation of the Savior King, in which finally all will be made well.
  • And, Last but not least there is the Final Judgment, in which he becomes a very fearful idol, who represents our self condemnation.

And all the while what he meant to teach was:

         The message of the crucifixion is perfectly clear:
         2 Teach only love, for that is what you are.


And so our own ways of idolizing him are probably variations on the above themes, and constantly get in the way of our relationship with him, being the ego's way of telling him who he is, and giving him a definite, and above all "meaningful" role in the drama as we choose to see it. When we finally are willing to try the "little willingness," and entertain the possibility that our ego might be wrong, we have to let these canned images go, and get ready for the real thing, which will tell us of itself.

The distractions on this path are endless, and we all go through it in different ways. External teachers in the world who we idolize and cannibalize are a prime example.  In my own past I see my disappointment with some of them. Even just for the fact that they had the temerity to die - I mean, how dare they. In my book The Gospel as a Spiritual Path, I described my own experience with just such a transition, which actually led me to the Course, when Frits Bonk died, who had been a spiritual teacher to me from age 15 till 40. He was a student of Krishnamurti and of Jan Willem Kaiser, and in retrospect he specifically led me to the Course through a dream experience.

They showed me the way to follow the Internal Teacher, but we have to let go of the ego in order to follow Him, and the ego insists on coming along for the ride and that they take us "there," which is exactly same thing as what we expected from Jesus: that he would come to magically save us as we are, without changing our minds. Never in a million years would the ego permit for us to get up and go to him. We'll try anything rather than the tenuous (for the ego!)  relationship with our Internal Teacher. Yet this remains the Course's most simple purpose: " provide a way for some people to find their own Internal Teacher." (Introduction).

Copyright, © 2006 Rogier F. van Vlissingen. All rights reserved.

Monday, July 03, 2006

What's the point?

The link under the title is to a short biography of Franz Rosenzweig, the famous Jewish philosopher. At the end of his life he was working with Martin Buber on the translation of the Hebrew Bible, and since he was suffering from a condition which largely paralyzed him, so that he could no longer speak, he would type out his comments for Buber, who came to visit once a week, and here is how the above article reports his last letter, which Buber found stuck in the typewriter on his last visit whe Rosenzweig had expired just before Buber arrived:

When Rosenzweig died on December 10, 1929, they had reached Isaiah 53, the fourth song of the servant of God.

Daily, Rosenzweig had written and received letters. He did not finish his last letter: "… and now it comes, the point of all points, which the Lord really gave me in my sleep: the points of all points, for which it …". Here broke the thread of his life.

In German it goes this way: "Und jetzt kommt die Pointe aller Pointen, die mir der Herr im Schlaf verliehen hat."

In a way the story reminds me of the telling by Kenneth Wapnick, in Absence from Felicity, the story of Helen Schucman and Her Scribing of A Course In Miracles, of Helen's Final months and Requiem (Chapter 18). Some way, some how an ending beyond comprehension in indescribable peace.

On another level it also reminds me of the way Mary Magdalen seems to fade out of history at the end of the account in Mark, even though evidently she perhaps more than anyone "got" the resurrection, and the "point" of Jesus' life. And yet her story seemingly got trampled under foot and largely lost in the subsequent to do that led ultimately to the founding of Christianity. As we now more and more realize, since the victors write history, what we know as Christianity today has less to do with the teachings  of Jesus than it has to do with who won, and that was who made the most noise, and those were the factions which ultimately rendered Christianity suitable in the service of Caesar, at the time of the Emperor Constantine.

But the message of the Resurrection is not lost by that and quietly countless seekers found
Jesus in their lives over time in spite of it all, and now we live in a time when both many documents that were once suppressed have resurfaced, starting as early as the pre-renaissance with Marsilio Ficino and others, the re-discovery of Platonism, and the renewed glimmers of gnostic literature in the form of the Corpus Hermeticum. This picks up speed with the discovery of various "apocryphal" fragments of new testament literature from the late 19th century onwards, and with the finds of the Dead Sea Scrolls and Nag Hammadi all the way up to the recent re-disovery of the Gospel of Judas, there is now a growing unease with accepted Christian doctrine as highlighted both by the success of the book The Da Vinci Code,  as by the intensity of the Church's reaction to it.

A Course In Miracles provides the modern corollary, which makes it easier once again to make out Jesus' teachings from the din of history, and from the religion founded in his name by others. The Disappearance of the Universe completes that picture by bridging the tradition from The Gospel of Thomas to A Course in Miracles. And for all the racket and noise of this whole universe, the implication is that in the end the disappearance of that universe is a quiet affair, when the thought system of sin, guilt and fear that sustains it is given up, or as the Course some what humorously asks in the Manual for Teachers: "How many teachers of God are needed to save the world?" and answers:

The answer to this question is–one. 2 One wholly perfect teacher, whose learning is complete, suffices. 3 This one, sanctified and redeemed, becomes the Self Who is the Son of God. 4 He who was always wholly spirit now no longer sees himself as a body, or even as in a body. 5 Therefore he is limitless. 6 And being limitless, his thoughts are joined with God's forever and ever. 7 His perception of himself is based upon God's Judgment, not his own. 8 Thus does he share God's Will, and bring His Thoughts to still deluded minds. 9 He is forever one, because he is as God created him. 10 He has accepted Christ, and he is saved.
unquote (ACIM:M-12.1)

Copyright, © 2006 Rogier F. van Vlissingen. All rights reserved.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Mk. 8:34-38 - An Adulterous Generation?

Pursuant to some reflections in my last post, we also discussed the passage in our Friday-night ACIM study group at the New York Theosophical Society, and almost went line by line to look at this Jesus quote through the eyes of the Course.

It turns out to be a remarkable vignette, which actually makes a lot more sense once we look at it from a Course perspective than if we persist in reading it from a traditional, primarily Pauline -- and dualistic -- perspective. Below I am providing some of those parallels with the Course, now going line by line (The text I've used here is the NIV):

Mk. 8:34 Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.

"If anyone would come after me,..."

ACIM Commentary: Note here that Jesus leaves it open if anyone in particular would come after him, which sounds very similar to the attitude reflected in the Course, in which he says on the one hand that it is a required course, but leaves it open when we take it:

2 It is a required course. 3 Only the time you take it is voluntary. 4 Free will does not mean that you can establish the curriculum. 5 It means only that you can elect what you want to take at a given time.
unquote (ACIM:T-in.1:2-5)

In other words, truth is true and is inevitable in that sense, but if you're not ready for it, you can do it later. In the eyes of eternity it makes no difference at all when you do so.

... he must deny himself and take up his Cross and follow me.

the self we are to deny here of course is the false self, our individuality, our ego self, which is the illusion of a self which we have substituted for our true self which we are as the Son of God:

You who believe that God is fear made but one substitution. 2 It has taken many forms, because it was the substitution of illusion for truth; of fragmentation for wholeness. 3 It has become so splintered and subdivided and divided again, over and over, that it is now almost impossible to perceive it once was one, and still is what it was. 4 That one error, which brought truth to illusion, infinity to time, and life to death, was all you ever made. 5 Your whole world rests upon it. 6 Everything you see reflects it, and every special relationship that you have ever made is part of it.
unquote (ACIM:T-18.I.4)

and thus we are reminded in this Markan quote to deny the substitute self, which is in the Course's words "the denial of truth."
5 The task of the miracle worker thus becomes
unquote (ACIM:T-12.II.1)

... and take up his cross and follow me.
This is one of the most profoundly misunderstood Jesus quotes in the unfortunate history of Christianity, since it became the basis of so much martyrdom, while as Jesus reminds us in the Course:

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 (ACIM:T-6.I.16)

and earlier in the same section he says the following:
You are not persecuted, nor was I. 2 You are not asked to repeat my experiences because the Holy Spirit, Whom we share, makes this unnecessary. 3 To use my experiences constructively, however, you must still follow my example in how to perceive them. 4 My brothers and yours are constantly engaged in justifying the unjustifiable. 5 My one lesson, which I must teach as I learned it, is that no perception that is out of accord with the judgment of the Holy Spirit can be justified. 6 I undertook to show this was true in an extreme case, merely because it would serve as a good teaching aid to those whose temptation to give in to anger and assault would not be so extreme. 7 I will with God that none of His Sons should suffer.
The crucifixion cannot be shared because it is the symbol of projection, but the resurrection is the symbol of sharing because the reawakening of every Son of God is necessary to enable the Sonship to know its Wholeness. 2 Only this is knowledge.
The message of the crucifixion is perfectly clear:

2 Teach only love, for that is what you are.
unquote (ACIM:T-6.I.11-13)

In other words in following after him he is asking us to teach only love, and not to repeat the crucifixion. And the followers of early Christianity in a profound confusion of content and form, actually often pursued to repeat the form (being crucified) instead of teaching the content of love and forgiveness.

The concept of taking up "your cross" is probably most responsible for this meaning, for it led to a confusion of content and form pursuant to Jesus' crucifixion. The gist of it however is a reference to the psychology of victor/victim in which the ego is always caught, and the cross that we are taking up of course is the starry cross of our individual destiny in the common cosmological concepts of the day. The shift that is referred to is what in modern terms we would call taking responsibility for your life. In saying that we should however make the caveat that because of the Course's understanding of the unconscious, the meaning is not that our conscious self, the ego self is able to change things, but rather we as who we are must take responsibility for choosing the ego, and that is the choice we can undo. All the forgiveness classrooms of our daily life are the opportunity to do so in small increments.

Mk. 8:35 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.

The "life" we are trying to save is the life of the false self, which is limited in time and space by definition and hence cannot be saved, since it is preordained to being temporary. However if we give up our attachment to that life of the false self, which is beyond hope in the first place and choose our true Self which is Jesus and his message of love, we will save our life in the spirit of the Course's words here:
There is no life outside of Heaven. 2 Where God created life, there life must be. 3 In any state apart from Heaven life is illusion. 4 At best it seems like life; at worst, like death. 5 Yet both are judgments on what is not life, equal in their inaccuracy and lack of meaning. 6 Life not in Heaven is impossible, and what is not in Heaven is not anywhere. 7 Outside of Heaven, only the conflict of illusion stands; senseless, impossible and beyond all reason, and yet perceived as an eternal barrier to Heaven. 8 Illusions are but forms. 9 Their content is never true.
unquote (ACIM:T-23.II.19)

Mk. 8:36 What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?
Mk. 8:37 Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?

The "Glossary-Index for A Course in Miracles" produced by Kenneth Wapnick cites T-12.VI.1:1 as a direct parallel for the first line, but the whole first paragraph of that chapter is worth quoting here as a comment on these two lines:

1. The ego is trying to teach you how to gain the whole world and lose your own soul. 2 The Holy Spirit teaches that you cannot lose your soul and there is no gain in the world, for of itself it profits nothing. 3 To invest without profit is surely to impoverish yourself, and the overhead is high. 4 Not only is there no profit in the investment, but the cost to you is enormous. 5 For this investment costs you the world's reality by denying yours, and gives you nothing in return. 6 You cannot sell your soul, but you can sell your awareness of it. 7 You cannot perceive your soul, but you will not know it while you perceive something else as more valuable.
unquote (ACIM:T-12.VI.1:1)

Mk.8:38 If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father's glory with the holy angels."

Throughout Mark we find passages of the apostles not getting what Jesus teaches, and also we find episodes of shame, as in Peter's denial (Mk. 14:26-31), where he doesn't get it why he will deny Jesus, and then in Mk. 14:66-72 he denies Jesus three times. This issue is an entirely central part of the teaching and it is enormously important to appreciate it for what it is. Namely while we choose the ego still, we are ashamed of and deny our true Self which is represented by Jesus. He is teaching us through his life to make the other choice however, but it is not helpful to deny the fact that we don't want him around, for as long as we deny (this time in the sense of repression) our denial of truth we cannot be healed from it either. This is why the Course is full of references to looking at our issues with Jesus or the Holy Spirit. That step is necessary in order to let things go.

As pointed out in the earlier post, the concept of adultery here really relates to the "selling of our soul," and the betrayal of our true Self, and an important Course commentary is the section in T-29.VII "Seek not outside yourself." For it is the ego's attachment to the things of the world which keeps us rooted in the world, and the ego. What we are learning through our practicing of the Course is the true cost of that, namely the loss of our true self, and our Inner Peace. On that level then the Course, if we practice what it says, leads us to an inner conflict in which we finally make the other choice, all of which happens at levels of the mind we are not ordinarily in touch with because of our denial, and the resulting veils of forgetfulness.

As to the word "sinful," in this line, I've already cited the relevant Course correction to that notion, which reinforces what is also suggested by the original meaning of the Greek word "hamartia," being "failing," or "mistake." For the sake of completeness I repeat the Course quote here:
Son of God, you have not sinned, but you have been much mistaken.
unquote (ACIM:T-10.V.6)

As to the ending of the paragraph I would doubt that Jesus would seriously say that he'll be ashamed of us, unless he was speaking in jest, and indulging in poetic license around the word ashamed. We don't have his facial expression to go with it. The gist of it is clear however, that again the cost of our allegiance to the ego is the peace that Jesus offers us, and the time will inevitably come when we are ready to make the other choice, and that is also the note on which the Course ends, with the section "Choose Once Again."

Thus, taken together these few lines of a Jesus quote in Mark are remarkably consistent with the teachings of Jesus in the Gospel of Thomas, and A Course in Miracles, if we do not read them based on the ego's theology of sin, guilt, and fear which is very much the meat and potatoes of the Pauline reconstruction of Jesus' teachings which is Christianity. In saying that, it is important that we realize that now that more and more evidence is coming to light on just how Christianity distorted Jesus' teachings, that we treat these as object lessons in which we can see how we ourselves constantly botch our relationship with Jesus in all the ways history has shown us, and in the true spirit of the Course then by recognizing this, and no longer denying it we can finally begin to bring the problem to the answer.

Thus FOLLOWING Jesus is suggested in Course passages such as "The Quiet Answer," in Chapter 27, section IV, where the central concept is that a real answer is only possible if we bring the problem to Jesus, and in the process also give up our way of looking at it - an issue which is forcefully stated also in the following passage:

Now you are being shown you escape. 2 All that is needed is you look upon the problem as it is, and not the way that you have set it up. 3 How could there be another way to solve a problem that is very simple, but has been obscured by heavy clouds of complication, which were made to keep the problem unresolved? 4 Without the clouds the problem will emerge in all its primitive simplicity. 5 The choice will not be difficult, because the problem is absurd when clearly seen. 6 No one has difficulty making up his mind to let a simple problem be resolved if it is seen as hurting him, and also very easily removed.
unquote (ACIM:T-27.VII.2)

Copyright, © 2006 Rogier F. van Vlissingen. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

An Adulterous Generation?

Mark 8:34-38 reads as follows (NIV):
34 Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever wants to save his life[c] will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. 36 What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? 37 Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? 38 If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father's glory with the holy angels."

Regina Dawn Akers in her paraphrasing from the Holy Spirit reflects this passage as follows:
The apostles did not understand, so Jesus explained further.

“The mind of man is split. One part of the mind is focused on the world of sin and death. This part of the mind sees sin and death because it believes it is guilty of being separate from God. In its aloneness, it suffers.

“The other part of the mind [knows it] is not alone. It knows no separateness. It knows Itself as one with God and all men. You have felt this vision in your work, and so you know it is within you.

“The part of the mind that knows aloneness is like a dark cloud hanging over the world making it dark. As you see the darkened world, you believe the darkness is all there is. But beyond every dark cloud, there is Light. It is the Light that is eternal.

“The [eternal] Light is also within your mind. Focus on the Light. Love the Light. Pray unto the Light and worship the Light within [with your gratitude]. Through [these] practices, your awareness of the Light will grow strong, and [the Light] will give you the desire and strength to overcome guilt, doubt and fear.

“Hold to the Light in all things. It is the way to Life.”

Holy Spirit's Interpretation of the New Testament: A Course in Understanding and Acceptance
The paraphrasing reflects a right-minded way of looking at things, overlooking the error and seeing only the love, and the learning.

I am reminded however of a wise comment my ex-wife once made to someone who was propositioning her, and assuring her that her husband would never know. Her comeback: "But I would know."

The spiritual meaning of adulterous should be seen as cheating on ourselves, in terms of the Course's dictum: "Seek not outside yourself." (T-29.VII) In fact the first paragraph of the section is worth quoting here in full:

Seek not outside yourself. 2 For it will fail, and you will weep each time an idol falls. 3 Heaven cannot be found where it is not, and there can be no peace excepting there. 4 Each idol that you worship when God calls will never answer in His place. 5 There is no other answer you can substitute, and find the happiness His answer brings. 6 Seek not outside yourself. 7 For all your pain comes simply from a futile search for what you want, insisting where it must be found. 8 What if it is not there? 9 Do you prefer that you be right or happy? 10 Be you glad that you are told where happiness abides, and seek no longer elsewhere. 11 You will fail. 12 But it is given you to know the truth, and not to seek for it outside yourself.

And very careful rereading of the passage Mk.8:34-38 provides a context in which this spiritual meaning offers a rather compelling reading, for the entire paragraph is concerned with NOT seeking outside ourselves (in the world). And instead to take responsibility for our lives (Take up your cross), and follow Jesus instead, denying (the ego in) himself. The Course describes this as denying the denial of truth - the ego in us being the denial of the truth of our oneness with God. And thus we come to understand the deeper spiritual meaning of the word adultery as "cheating" on the one and only relationship which God has joined and man shall not cast asunder, namely our relationship with Jesus, which merely symbolizes the relationship with the Self we truly are, and so the word indicates cheating on our Self. As long as we believe we are children of the ego we then indeed are an adulterous and mistaken generation, who will be ashamed of our relationship with Jesus, the Self who we are in truth.

And I note that in this last sentence when I wrote "mistaken" generation in lieu of a "sinful" generation, as we find it in the NIV and most Bible translations is twofold:
- first, the Greek work "hamartia" which has been rendered as sin in most English Bible translations, did not carrry that heavily judgmental meaning in its original Greek meaning, and could be and most likely should be read as "failing," or "mistake."
- second, we are reminded of one of the many corrections the Course offers to the concept of sin, which it points out again and again is an ego concept, and de facto legitimizes the ego. The following passage is worth quoting in full:
Son of God, you have not sinned, but you have been much mistaken. 2 Yet this can be corrected and God will help you, knowing that you could not sin against Him. 3 You denied Him because you loved Him, knowing that if you recognized your love for Him, you could not deny Him. 4 Your denial of Him therefore means that you love Him, and that you know He loves you. 5 Remember that what you deny you must have once known. 6 And if you accept denial, you can accept its undoing.
unquote (ACIM:T-10.V.6)

Thus can a little passage with some reflection be read and understood in a much more spiritual way than the traditional Christian morality about behavior in the world, which is the inevitable result of reading the story entirely in a dualistic framework, applying to the world. And so we can restore a right minded reading to the story, and begin to see in it the teaching of Jesus as we know him from the Thomas Gospel and from A Course in Miracles, a Jesus who asks us to come up to him, and to bring the problem to the answer, instead of dragging him down into the world, and making him into an idol.

Copyright, © 2006 Rogier F. van Vlissingen. All rights reserved.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Déjà vu all over again

It seems we're going through all the same things now with the Course, as happened in the early years of Christianity. One important difference however is that this time we have his words pretty well intact, and not subject to the many distortions of the transmission of 2000 years ago.

The Course emphasizes in many ways that it is a practical Course, as in:
You have surely begun to realize that this is a very practical course, and one that means exactly what it says. 2 I would not ask you to do things you cannot do, and it is impossible that I could do things you cannot do. 3 Given this, and given this quite literally, nothing can prevent you from doing exactly what I ask, and everything argues your doing it. 4 I give you no limits because God lays none upon you. 5 When you limit yourself we are not of one mind, and that is sickness. 6 Yet sickness is not of the body, but of the mind. 7 All forms of sickness are signs that the mind is split, and does not accept a unified purpose.
unquote (ACIM:T-8.IX.8)

And it highlights a favorite ego delaying tactic, namely demanding answers to many questions it has -- our false self asking our true Self to legitimize itself, a variant on attack as a defense -- as in:
The ego will demand many answers that this course does not give. 2 It does not recognize as questions the mere form of a question to which an answer is impossible. 3 The ego may ask, "How did the impossible occur?", "To what did the impossible happen?", and may ask this in many forms. 4 Yet there is no answer; only an experience. 5 Seek only this, and do not let theology delay you.
unquote (ACIM:C-in.4)

It also points out that what comes natural is not difficult, and our ego interference can only complicate matters:
It is this that makes the holy instant so easy and so natural. 2 You make it difficult, because you insist there must be more that you need do. 3 You find it difficult to accept the idea that you need give so little, to receive so much. 4 And it is very hard for you to realize it is not personally insulting that your contribution and the Holy Spirit's are so extremely disproportionate. 5 You are still convinced that your understanding is a powerful contribution to the truth, and makes it what it is. 6 Yet we have emphasized that you need understand nothing. 7 Salvation is easy just it asks nothing you cannot give right now.
unquote (ACIM:T-18.IV.7)

In quotes in the New Testament Jesus asks again and again that we take up our cross (take responsibility for our lives) and follow him. But instead what happens is that instead of following him to his Kingdom that is not of this world, we develop a theology around him and graciously give him a role in our world. That is the story of early Christianity. The Thomas Gospel has the most unspoiled quotes of Jesus, but even in Mark, which has relatively little Pauline influence, we can see that often the apostles are "not getting it," and are portraied in their often failing struggles of following Jesus in all meanings of the word. Yet with more and more editing in later Gospels the emphasis shifts to how the apostles did get it and go to tell the world, the chief architect of Christian proselytizing always being Paul.

And then the mythology of the early church, in which Peter is bombarded into the first Pope (Vicar of Christ!), and apostolic succession posited as a would-be proof of legitimacy, fully establishes the notion that Jesus is a truth "we" have and the heathens out there don't. And that launches the aggression that has characterized Christianity much of the time.

In the meantime however, the docetic passages in the Acts of John indicate strongly that even in the time following the crucifixion some were grappling with an understanding of Jesus as a manifestation of God's love, which could take any form. Here it is (from
87 Those that were present inquired the cause, and were especially perplexed, because Drusiana had said: The Lord appeared unto me in the tomb in the likeness of John, and in that of a youth. Forasmuch, therefore, as they were perplexed and were, in a manner, not yet stablished in the faith, so as to endure it steadfastly, John said (or John bearing it patiently, said):

88 Men and brethren, ye have suffered nothing strange or incredible as concerning your perception of the , inasmuch as we also, whom he chose for himself to be apostles, were tried in many ways: I, indeed, am neither able to set forth unto you nor to write the things which I both saw and heard: and now is it needful that I should fit them for your hearing; and according as each of you is able to contain it I will impart unto you those things whereof ye are able to become hearers, that ye may see the glory that is about him, which was and is, both now and for ever.

For when he had chosen Peter and Andrew, which were brethren, he cometh unto me and James my brother, saying: I have need of you, come unto me. And my brother hearing that, said: John, what would this child have that is upon the sea-shore and called us? And I said: What child? And he said to me again: That which beckoneth to us. And I answered: Because of our long watch we have kept at sea, thou seest not aright, my brother James; but seest thou not the man that standeth there, comely and fair and of a cheerful countenance? But he said to me: Him I see not, brother; but let us go forth and we shall see what he would have.

89 And so when we had brought the ship to land, we saw him also helping along with us to settle the ship: and when we departed from that place, being minded to follow him, again he was seen of me as having rather bald, but the beard thick and flowing, but of James as a youth whose beard was newly come. We were therefore perplexed, both of us, as to what that which we had seen should mean. And after that, as we followed him, both of us were by little and little perplexed as we considered the matter. Yet unto me there then appeared this yet more wonderful thing: for I would try to see him privily, and I never at any time saw his eyes closing (winking), but only open. And oft-times he would appear to me as a small man and uncomely, and then againt as one reaching unto heaven. Also there was in him another marvel: when I sat at meat he would take me upon his own breast; and sometimes his breast was felt of me to be smooth and tender, and sometimes hard like unto stones, so that I was perplexed in myself and said: Wherefore is this so unto me? And as I considered this, he . .

90 And at another time he taketh with him me and James and Peter unto the mountain where he was wont to pray, and we saw in him a light such as it is not possible for a man that useth corruptible (mortal) speech to describe what it was like. Again in like manner he bringeth us three up into the mountain, saying: Come ye with me. And we went again: and we saw him at a distance praying. I, therefore, because he loved me, drew nigh unto him softly, as though he could not see me, and stood looking upon his hinder parts: and I saw that he was not in any wise clad with garments, but was seen of us naked, and not in any wise as a man, and that his feet were whiter than any snow, so that the earth there was lighted up by his feet, and that his head touched the heaven: so that I was afraid and cried out, and he, turning about, appeared as a man of small stature, and caught hold on my beard and pulled it and said to me: John, be not faithless but believing, and not curious. And I said unto him: But what have I done, Lord? And I say unto you, brethren, I suffered so great pain in that place where he took hold on my beard for thirty days, that I said to him: Lord, if thy twitch when thou wast in sport hath given me so great pain, what were it if thou hadst given me a buffet? And he said unto me: Let it be thine henceforth not to tempt him that cannot be tempted.

91 But Peter and James were wroth because I spake with the Lord, and beckoned unto me that I should come unto them and leave the Lord alone. And I went, and they both said unto me: He (the old man) that was speaking with the Lord upon the top of the mount, who was he? for we heard both of them speaking. And I, having in mind his great grace, and his unity which hath many faces, and his wisdom which without ceasing looketh upon us, said: That shall ye learn if ye inquire of him.

92 Again, once when all we his disciples were at Gennesaret sleeping in one house, I alone having wrapped myself in my mantle, watched (or watched from beneath my mantle) what he should do: and first I heard him say: John, go thou to sleep. And I thereon feigning to sleep saw another like unto him [sleeping], whom also I heard say unto my Lord: Jesus, they whom thou hast chosen believe not yet on thee (or do they not yet, &c.?). And my Lord said unto him: Thou sayest well: for they are men.

93 Another glory also will I tell you, brethren: Sometimes when I would lay hold on him, I met with a material and solid body, and at other times, again, when I felt him, the substance was immaterial and as if it existed not at all. And if at any time he were bidden by some one of the Pharisees and went to the bidding, we went with him, and there was set before each one of us a loaf by them that had bidden us, and with us he also received one; and his own he would bless and part it among us: and of that little every one was filled, and our own loaves were saved whole, so that they which bade him were amazed. And oftentimes when I walked with him, I desired to see the print of his foot, whether it appeared on the earth; for I saw him as it were lifting himself up from the earth: and I never saw it. And these things I speak unto you, brethren, for the encouragement of your faith toward him; for we must at the present keep silence concerning his mighty and wonderful works, inasmuch as they are unspeakable and, it may be, cannot at all be either uttered or heard.

94 Now before he was taken by the lawless Jews, who also were governed by (had their law from) the lawless serpent, he gathered all of us together and said: Before I am delivered up unto them let us sing an hymn to the Father, and so go forth to that which lieth before us. He bade us therefore make as it were a ring, holding one another's hands, and himself standing in the midst he said: Answer Amen unto me. He began, then, to sing an hymn and to say:

And yet we see in ourselves and around us the ego's tendency to want to interpret the Course and build theologies around it, just like we once tried to interpret Jesus, and found religions in his name. The Course is very clear that understanding follows from forgiveness, and not the other way around:
And it is recognized that all things must be first forgiven, and understood.
Here,(in the world, Ed.) it is thought that understanding is acquired by attack. 2 There (in the Real World, Ed.), it is clear that by attack is understanding lost. 3 The folly of pursuing guilt as goal is fully recognized. 4 And idols are not wanted there, for guilt is understood as the sole cause of pain in any form.
unquote (ACIM:T-30.V.1:6,2:1-4)

And this is the answer then and now, the point is not in getting lost in theological speculation about the Course, but in practicing what it says, and in growing in understanding at Jesus' hand, as we follow him on the way back home. We grow ears to hear and eyes to see by following him, not by arguing with him. Christianity with its history of two thousand years of splits, battles and prosecutions already has shown us where theology leads.

Copyright, © 2006 Rogier F. van Vlissingen. All rights reserved.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Where the Rubber Meets the Road

You may complain that this course is not sufficiently specific for you to understand and use. 2 Yet perhaps you have not done what it specifically advocates. 3 This is not a course in the play of ideas, but in their practical application. 4 Nothing could be more specific than to be told that if you ask you will receive.

And it is recognized that all things must be first forgiven, and understood.
Here,(in the world, Ed.) it is thought that understanding is acquired by attack. 2 There (in the Real World, Ed.), it is clear that by attack is understanding lost. 3 The folly of pursuing guilt as goal is fully recognized. 4 And idols are not wanted there, for guilt is understood as the sole cause of pain in any form. (ACIM:T-30.V.1:6,2:1-4)

Where the rubber meets the road in terms of the Course is in practicing what it says, hence the first quote refers the reader back to the question of practice, if they think the Course is failing them. The Course generously admits that it may be simple, but that doesn't mean it is easy, for the Course has a very realistic respect for our ego, which after all has managed to dream up the entire world, and is not about to roll over and play dead once confronted with the lack of a foundation to its entire illusory system. Our resistance to truly studying it, let alone practicing it is the living testimony to our ego's dislikes.

However the Course is also always very gentle with us, in allowing the fact that we should not force ourselves to do anything we're not ready for, and that simply becoming aware of the ego's shenanigans under Jesus' forgiving eye is a worthwhile first step.

In a sense Christianity in its genesis is an object lesson in how the ego thwarts Jesus' teaching. From being a teacher who asks us to take up our cross and follow him (out of this world, and into the mind where at least change is possible), and who asks us to choose "metanoia," change of mind, he becomes an idol on the cross who dies for our sins no less, and makes us feel good and guilty while we are waiting for his return. Meanwhile the very guilt producing notion that he would have died for our sins, helps us put a lid on the worst guilt feelings, and really removes the urgency of making change in ourselves, for the implicit message is that while we are sinners, we'll be OK until he comes back. So we got away with it for now, or so it seems.

In the process of developing this mythology by Paul and those who followed, what really happens is that in lieu of the teaching of a non-dualistic Jesus who still speaks to us e.g. in the sayings of Thomas, and who asks us to seek first the Kingdom that is not of this world, and to learn to be in the world but not of it, we now have a dualistic Jesus whose life on earth becomes of significance, and whose person becomes an object of worship. And theology really serves to tell Jesus what it is he taught, and which he seemingly can't object to while he powerlessly hangs on that cross on the wall -- at least until he comes back, which fortunately for us seems to slip back further all the time. Not in my lifetime...

In and of itself the Christian theology is an example of bringing the answer to the problem, i.e. dragging Jesus down from the non-dualistic reality of which he teaches into the dualistic substitute reality of the world. As the Course points out, the path of salvation is the exact reverse, i.e. bringing the problem to the answer, namely for us to follow Jesus out of this world so that we can look at the problem as it is, and not the way that we have set it up.(c.f. ACIM:T-27.VII.2:2; also W-80.2.2:passim)

Along with the development of this theology, it immediately becomes important to convince others, as Paul sets out to do on page one of his letters. For we have now substituted our teaching of the meaning of Jesus for his truth, and therefore we now need the votes to prove that we're right and he's wrong, and to the ego truth lies in numbers, since it cannot understand anything else. Truth however needs no defense, as Jesus did prove by his life, but our reconstruction of his life and meaning certainly needs defense, and ultimately of course the underlying nature of the attack becomes clear in the emergence of Christianity as a state religion under the emperor Constantine, and then even more so under the Crusades in the Middle Ages. But it all starts right away with Paul's proselytizing. Many of us recognize this dynamic in terms of our own tendencies of wanting to convince others of the merits of A Course In Miracles, for when first we realize how wonderful the Course really is, we want others to learn it, so we don't have to. Hopefully sometime early on in our practice, we'll catch our selves doing it and crack ourselves up. The Course however does not support this, by being very clear that it is just one form of the universal course, and everyone needs to decide for themselves if it is for them. Moreover it maintains that: "... the sole responsibility of the miracle worker, is to accept the atonement for himself,..." (ACIM:T-5.V.7:8), which makes it even more explicit we need focus only on our own practicing.

The other sense in which the Course is practical, is that it focuses on starting right within our own relationships, and does not ask us to go sit on mountain tops and meditate, or other forms of turning away from the world. In fact it makes clear that every relationship in our life is a starting point, and that the opportunity for change lies in turning to the Holy Spirit for guidance so that our day to day relationships may indeed be a classroom for our path of Salvation. The archetypical relationship is that of Helen Schucman, the scribe of the Course and Bill Thetford her boss. They had their challenges, but the Course is a product of their joining in pursuit of "another way," to relate to one another and other people. At one point Helen had a dream in which she saw Jesus, and remarked that he looked like Bill, and she heard Jesus say to her: "Who else would I look like?" (See Ken Wapnick's "Absence from Felicity"). Likewise in the Course it is expressed many ways that in looking at our relationships with the Holy Spirit we will come to see our Savior in our brother.

Elsewhere in the Course, Jesus refers to the bitter idols the world has made of him (ACIM:C-5.5:7), that's his comment on the very guilt producing image of the sacrificial lamb in the drama of vicarious salvation (he dies in our place, really). This idol has been used to make others feel guilty, to convert others, at the point of the sword if necessary. ("In hoc signo vinces," was the Emperor Constantine's dream experience.) Even slaves in Africa were "Christened" as they were shipped off to the New World in a pretense of "saving" them from their heretical ways, not to mention they were thus saved from conversion to Islam, as the Arab slave raiders came Westwards across Africa, similarly saving people by converting them to Islam... All of which has little to do with the love and forgiveness Jesus taught us to have for one another.

The Christian Jesus then has become an idol that is only too often used to attack others with, and produce guilt, which serves only to manipulate people, to subdue them. And so Christianity has frequently become oppressive. And yet the message of salvation always shone through in spite of the abuses for those who had ears to hear. In a recent interview on WBAI radio I was confronted with the strong desire in the black community to have Jesus be black, which is of course just as racist as having him be white, if we're back to making an idol of his body, instead of relating to him in spirit. The point in the Course is that Jesus teaches by the crucifixion that he is not his body, and only extended his love even to those who killed him, and by the resurrection he teaches that he represents the eternal love which we all are: "Teach only love, for that is what you are." (ACIM:T-6.III.2:9) He is our Internal Teacher, and we can see him in our brother, when we learn to see our brother through the eyes of forgiveness - i.e. as spirit, and as the same as ourselves.

Ken Wapnick has expressed this point as: "Jesus is a what, who looks like a who, because you think you're a who." Jesus is what the Course calls the manifestation of the Holy Spirit, and as such he is just a symbol in the dream, which can look different to different people or even at different times, as the apostles discussed in some passages in the Acts of John, where they compared notes and expressed how different Jesus appeared to all of them. This did not fit in with the Jesus mythology of the budding orthodoxy, and so it was suppressed, and did not make the canon of the New Testament. See link to Early Christian Writings on the front page of this blog, and specifically lines 87 f.f. of:

In emphasizing the human figure of Jesus, the spiritual significance of Jesus was systematically repressed. And so instead of being the Internal Teacher, who leads us home out of this world, he becomes the magical saviour who comes down to this earth to make it all good. In other words instead of leading us out of the duality of the world to the non-duality of our true home in Heaven, he validates the world in his portrayal as a magical savior who is coming back to get us in the second coming. The fact is that Salvation happens the other way around, by us leaving the world and coming to Jesus, and the Resurrection is the remembering of who we are in truth. Under the title of this article is a link to Ken Wapnick's June 2, 2006 Lighthouse article, "The world of 2+2=5," which clarifies this concept of non-duality further.

A corollary to the above is the unimportance of teachers in the formal sense. The Course is a self study program, and as the second quote at the top of this article suggests, our interepretation can only get in the way. The focus is on our practice of it, as hinted in the first quote above. First of all teaching the Course clearly is meant as practicing what it does, and thus demonstrating by examply, which may be a completely non-verbal process. Thus all students are teachers. But secondly teaching the Course can only be done successfully if the teacher knows their own unimportance in the process, in the sense that the teaching for them is only another classroom in getting their egos out of the way, and letting the spirit teach through them. All of their experience can be useful to this process, but they are only facilitating the learning of the students, as there is nothing to add and certainly no interpretations are needed. That attitude is perhaps best described in the Course as follows:

(8) You can do much on behalf of your own healing and that of others if, in a situation calling for help, you think of it this way:

2 I am here only to be truly helpful.
3 I am here to represent Him Who sent me.
4 I do not have to worry about what to say or what to do, because He Who sent me will direct me.
5 I am content to be wherever He wishes, knowing He goes there with me.
6 I will be healed as I let Him teach me to heal.
unquote (ACIM:T-2.V.A.18:8)

Copyright, © 2006 Rogier F. van Vlissingen. All rights reserved.