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.
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