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.
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