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.