Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Duality all over again

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Parable of DU

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, August 14, 2006

Now about those Tongues

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

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

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

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

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

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