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 www.earlychristianwritings.com):
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.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

The Course in Tongues

God does not understand words,
for they were made by separated minds
to keep them
in the illusion of separation.

All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit
and began to speak in other tongues
as the Spirit enabled them.
(Bible/NIV:Acts 2:4)

On Pentecost Sunday, 2006, I found myself waking up early, and the whole house was still asleep. I snuck out at 7:00 and went to have coffee at Zaro's bakery on Hugh Grant Circle, next to the Parkchester subway station. After my coffee I took a walk, and passed St. Pauls Evangelical Lutheran Church, at 8:20, and noticed that the service started at 8:30. Because of my interest in Luther, and because I always liked the building, I decided to stop in. The fact that there was a bathroom was also part of the attraction, given the size of my cup of morning coffee.

When I sat down, I did not realize at first that this was Pentecost, but I did love the service. I enjoyed singing beloved spirituals, which always move me powerfully. And it put a smile on my face because my girlfriend that same morning was going to go downtown to St. Barts, where she always complains about the music - she wants gospel, not hymns, and thus we had white boy in black church grooving on spirituals, and black girl in white church, longing for gospel music...

And somehow the obligatory passage of Acts 2:4 about the apostles speaking in tongues on Pentecost reverberated powerfully in my mind, and connected to a long term contemplation about a new initiative to teach the Course in multiple languages, starting with a workshop in French in the Haitian community in Brooklyn, which I expect to start this year.

Likewise initiatives in Spanish and perhaps Portuguese are in the offing in collaboration with others. And in listening to the Pentecost service, a name was born for this new project:

The Course in Tongues,

It is a project focusing on multi-lingual teaching of the Course, and translation of related materials to or from English as the need arises. The initial focus will be on French in a Haitian community in Brooklyn, and Spanish.

The title of the project is also a reflection on the fact that in my work with translation of spiritual materials I am continuously learning that while both skill and inspiration play a part, in the end the very impossibility of translation is continuously a humbling experience which can be met only with a sense of humor and faith that the Holy Spirit is teaching through us, in spite of the words, and not because of them. Of course the same is essentially true of teaching in one's primary language.

Besides the issue of multi-lingual teaching, I also foresee maintaining a focus on the central theme of the Course's Judaeo-Christian framework, since Jesus evidently teaches by contrast to that tradition, by deliberately using familiar terms in unfamiliar ways. As I've argued elsewhere on this blog, Jesus uses cognitive dissonance as a teaching device throughout the Course. And from feedback from the Spanish community, where the Course seems to be growing faster than even in the English-speaking world, it is clear that all the typical confusions the Course terminology is prone to cause are even more relevant there because of the strong Catholic culture.

Having said that, the evident appeal of phenomena like The Passion of Christ, and The Da Vinci Code, highlight both the endurance of traditional Christian theology and the rebellion against it, and a hunger for alternatives. Further, the bridging of the Course's non-dualistic teaching to the teachings of Jesus in the Gospel according to Thomas, which has been brought out by the appearance of "The Disappearance of the Universe," lead us to completing a picture of the revisionist Jesus we met in the Christian orthodoxy, and which was the creation of Paul and those who followed in his footsteps. We end up coming full circle with the non-dualistic teachings of the pre-Pauline Jesus who we meet in the sayings of the Thomas Gospel, as well as in other "apocryphal" fragments, which are now increasingly entering the main stream, after a 1600 year absence.

The project is about to become operational by being hatched in an incubator through Citiworks of New York, which is a 501C3 umbrella organization, to meet the challenges of combining sound financial management with spiritual work on a needs basis for projects which meet our purpose, very much in the spirit of that organization.

Supporting my own translation work of J.W. Kaiser as well as my new translation of the Gospel according to Mark will be one of the principal projects. As we set out I have hopes for helping to bring about Spanish classes in the Course in New York, with assistance from Lucia Constain, at a Spanish church where I've known for years that the assistant pastor is a Course student. I also hope to find the ways and means for going to Angola at the invitatation of my adopted son, Didi Roberto Dilo, and starting some activity there, addressing the healing from 30 years of civil war. One of the biggest hits on Angolan television in recent years is a show about families re-uniting, who have found themselves separated by the conflict.

And, as I'm finishing up this article, I'm reflecting on the experience at my recent seminar at Riverside Church, which was a wonderful experience that extended into lengthy coffee conversations afterwards. I noticed myself accepting thanks for the clarity of my teaching, and realizing clearly that it was not my doing but the spirit teaching through me, and truly no thanks was due me in that sense, and I found myself more or less having to look over my shoulder to see who people were thanking. That is the spirit of this venture in multi-lingual, and, one might add, multi-cultural teaching of the Course.

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