Monday, August 20, 2007

Religion and Religions

Formal religion has no place in psychotherapy, but it also has no real place in religion. In this world, there is an astonishing tendency to join contradictory words into one term without perceiving the contradiction at all. The attempt to formalize religion is so obviously an ego attempt to reconcile the irreconcilable that it hardly requires elaboration here. Religion is experience; psychotherapy is experience. At the highest levels they become one. Neither is truth itself, but both can lead to truth. What can be necessary to find truth, which remains perfectly obvious, but to remove the seeming obstacles to true awareness? (ACIM: P-2.II.2)

I borrowed the title for this post from Jan Willem Kaiser. It is the title of a monograph and originally a presentation he gave at the Open Field Conferences in Holland in the 1960's. I've published several in translation under the title Four Open Field Books.

The topic is as relevant today as it was then, except to say that with the Course we can be even clearer now in some respects. The Course material quoted above (from the Psychotherapy pamphlet) makes a delightful quip about religion and religions.

The underlying point is this: religions in the plural, as worldly institutions, are the adaptations to the world of spiritual teachings, which in most cases were derived from teachers who were invariably misunderstood if not deliberately misconstrued, and whose teachings were adapted to worldly ends. The entire history of Christianity, starting from Paul's rationalizations which made Jesus' earthly life and presumed suffering as well as the notion of vicarious salvation the central focus, and which rendered Jesus' teachings fit to serve as a state religion under the emperor Constantine, later splintering in the Reformation under inter-European power struggles, all revolving around the politics of competing rulers, is political history, and has nothing to do with religion. The sophistry of modern "religious freedom," which seems to co-exist with a contrapuntal revival of a fundamentalism reminiscent of the Dark Ages, really is but the final, fractured form of the ego's relationship to a dualistic God, who is deemed to be the creator of this world, thus granting meaning to the ego's realm of the phenomenal world. The idea of God having created the world is essential to the world and to the ego, because it removes the objective reality of the world from question, and the theory of evolution does the same in non-religious terms.

The point here is that religion is experiential, and is only about what the Course would call the Holy Relationship, which in traditional language from the Jesus tradition is the First Commandment, to love our brothers as our Self and the Father above all. The Course describes this with the heavily symbolic expression of seeing the face of Christ in our brother, and the Holy Relationship.

Kaiser's article with this title, in many ways is probably the best definition of the Course anybody gave long before the Course arrived on the scene, and it is really an elaboration of another statement Kaiser made in one of his other books (as quoted in my The Gospel as a Spiritual Path, p. 115), which in itself sort of presaged the Course: "Presently the newly awakened psychology will gradually accomplish what pure religious devotion might have done: throw out Paul, and let Jesus in!" In other words, the point is to get disentangled from the ego's rationalizations parading as facts, and to take the risk of direct experience. I might add here that this article beats many current introductions to the Course, in essence because its author truly understood and represented the essence of Jesus' ministry as best he could understand it without the benefit of its modern variant in ACIM.

In the article Kaiser elaborates on the ego's self-justification which is the basis of our illusory experience, namely its fundamental drive to substitute its interpretations for the facts. He then goes on to describe religion as follows (p. 70 of Four Open Field Books):
"This is Religion, Service to God, and only those who are willing to drop all conceptions, theories, systems and methods will experience what it means and where it leads. This is the only true, universal Process of Liberation which tradition calls Transformation, which is then undergone in the Hands of the Supreme Himself.
No man will ever be able to define this mysterious Process, nor will any description of experiences under this process be comprehensible to outsiders or capable of being "used" by them.
This is Religion, Service to God, and it means the restoration and full development of the one vertical relationship, God and Man."

The crux of the problem is summed up in the Course in terms of the little willingness, which is our willingness to let go of the ego's judgment, the willingness to be wrong, which alone is required to honestly ask Jesus or the Holy Spirit for help. But the ego always attempts to jump back in. In another pithy description the Course describes this temptation as follows:

"Do not attempt to give the Holy Spirit what He does not ask, or you will add the ego to Him and confuse the two. He asks but little. It is He Who adds the greatness and the might. He joins with you to make the holy instant far greater than you can understand. It is your realization that you need do so little that enables Him to give so much." (ACIM:T-18.IV.1:6-10)

In short, since it is the ego's judgment which traps us in our substitute reality, the essence of the journey is to let go of it entirely, since the ego's judgment is entirely self-serving, capricious, and therefore not in our best interest. The Course's appeal to the intellect, since it is a very sound logical presentation, is merely a matter of hand holding along the way, for the Course's process is designed to lead us beyond the intellect entirely through our own first hand experience. Hence the workbook, setting us on a track to application of the Course's theory in our daily lives, is central to the curriculum, so much so that Jesus defines teachers of God as those who have completed the workbook at least once.

Kaiser, in his monograph quoted above also writes:
"The story of Theseus in Greek mythology is very instructive. After killing the Minotaur in the maze of impure human reasoning and feeling (the monster of lower urges in man), which he found thanks to the "thread" of logical thinking which Ariadne (Ariachne) had given him because she liked him. Theseus decides to take her with him as his bride.
But on his way "home" he gets the divine intimation that he must leave her behind in Naxos. He obeys but is so overcome with grief at his "infidelity" that he forgets to hoist the white sails, which were to be the token that he had returned a victor over the Minotaur. So when his father, waiting on the rock of illusion, saw the ship with black sails coming, he threw himself from the rocks and perished. THAT IS WHY THESEUS SUCCEEDED HIM AS KING.

Here it is. Accomplishment of the One Thing Needful demands more than we can bear. It is only going through apparent failure, utter darkness and despair, that man can come to an: "All is fulfilled."
If this does not happen the old "king." that is he who lives enslaved to the Minotaur, will not die but will go on reigning.
Alas, they who brought us new philosophies, new creeds, new ideologies, have never deserted "Ariachne" when the moment to do so had come.
They all hoisted "the white sails."
They all became famous and were hailed as glorious conquerors of evil. But the old "king" continued to reign. That is: things did not really change." (as quoted in: Four Open Field Books, p. 64)

And so, while the Course emphasizes Atonement without sacrifice, since we give up nothing to gain everything, we usually have the experience of loss simply because we think the ego and its baubles were quite something, and it takes us a while to appreciate that things are getting better when they seem to get worse from the standpoint of what we thought we knew.

The Course also offers various instructive suggestions as to what it means to leave the ego behind, using humor to help us overcome our resistance to do so, as in:

"The giving up of judgment, the obvious prerequisite for hearing God's Voice, is usually a fairly slow process, not because it is difficult, but because it is apt to be perceived as personally insulting. The world's training is directed toward achieving a goal in direct opposition to that of our curriculum. The world trains for reliance on one's judgment as the criterion for maturity and strength. Our curriculum trains for the relinquishment of judgment as the necessary condition of salvation."(ACIM:M-9.2:4-7)

The more we understand this issue and recognize it in ourselves, the more we will understand how important is the second step of the Course's forgiveness process, the asking for help from Jesus or the Holy Spirit in looking at the situation differently. Unless we truly surrender the ego's way of looking at things its way, and justifying its position, we cannot and will not truly ask the Holy Spirit for help, let alone rely on the Holy Spirit for the Answer. Only too often we keep filling in the blanks with the ego's answers. And so we think we know the Course and we hoist the white sails. This way we always surreptitiously end up with at best the ego's version of forgiveness, which the Course calls forgiveness to destroy.

This process is in fact the same that happened in early Christianity, when Jesus' teaching became rationalized into a system and an -ism, i.e. an organized religion, which served the rulers of the world quite well. This all started with the crystallization of a doctrinaire certainty about him, which effectively prevented us from doing what he asked, namely to pick up our "cross" and follow him. Instead we established a church based on the notion of an exclusive ownership of eternal truth, which simply became a power institution in the world, lording it over everyone, not to mention pursuing and attacking anyone who didn't buy the story. And the canon of the NT as interpreted by this emerging power structure, was held to represent that truth, based on the ludicrous presumption of direct transmission of the Jesus' teachings through the apostles. In other words, we claimed "we got it," we hoisted the white sails, and the old king (the ego) continued to rule.

This is how it goes every time when we pretend to ask the Holy Spirit for Help, but our ego really jumps in prematurely and starts filling in the anwers, and we "add the ego to Him," as the Course calls it. When we truly do ask for help, and wait for the Holy Spirit to provide the Answer in His time, we end up afterwards, looking behind us at nothing but the ashes of those once seemingly rock-solid ego beliefs. We could not let go of them, but little did we realize how much we suffered as a result of putting ourselves in chains, or how silly they would look after we let go of them.

Putting two and two together we can thus see that the historical phenomenon whereby genuine and universal spiritual teachings turn into "world" religions, is nothing but the ego's method of seemingly co-opting the very teachings that would threaten its existence, and giving them a different meaning in the process, just as we do when we turn forgiveness into "forgiveness to destroy."

And so the Course, while making a strong appeal to the intellect as part of its instruction, can and will lead us beyond it through its practice, and finally in Lesson 189:
"Simply do this: Be still, and lay aside all thoughts of what you are and what God is; all concepts you have learned about the world; all images you hold about yourself. Empty your mind of everything it thinks is either true or false, or good or bad, of every thought it judges worthy, and all the ideas of which it is ashamed. Hold onto nothing. Do not bring with you one thought the past has taught, nor one belief you ever learned before from anything. Forget this world, forget this course, and come with wholly empty hands unto your God."

And everything hinges on the "Little Willingness" to let go of our ego's judgments once and for all, but gratefully we only have to do it one miracle at a time, lest the fear were too great.

Copyright, © 2007 Rogier F. van Vlissingen. All rights reserved.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Take me to Truth / Undoing the Ego

Yet he would not say anything except by way of parable, but would spell everything out to his own disciples. (Mk. 4:34 SV)
But without parable spake he not unto them: and when they were alone, he expounded all things to his disciples. (Mk. 4:34 KJV)

So here it is in the modern words of the Scholars Version, as well as in the traditional wording of the King James Version, take your pick. A Course in Miracles famously says in its Preface: "Its only purpose is to provide a way in which some people will be able to find their own Internal Teacher." (ACIM:Preface p. viii). The point is this that following Jesus means to develop our own relationship with that Internal Teacher, and thus learning the Course is not about reading the book, nor about workshops, seminars and study groups, but about doing our own daily work with the Course, in which the words finally come to life whenever we truly ask for help from Jesus or the Holy Spirit to see things Their way, not ours, or as the Course also puts it: "Instead, there is a wish to understand all things created as they really are. And it is recognized that all things must be first forgiven, and then understood." (ACIM:T-30.V.1:5-6) It is through forgiveness that Jesus truly teaches us his way of looking at them, for it is a requirement of the forgiveness process that we should give up our judgment of the situation, before we are available to hear the Holy Spirit's take on things, and only in that process does Jesus explain everything to his disciples (Course students), he did then and he does now. Of necessity this is how the process must work, since the only purpose of the ego's judgment is to keep Jesus outside, with all the doors and windows shuttered, in line with what the Course also says : "The world was made as an attack on God." (ACIM:W-pII.3.2:1)

Nouk Sanchez and Tomas Vieira in their new book Take Me To Truth/Undoing the Ego share with us from their experience as they went their own (tandem) path of spiritual growth with A Course In Miracles by living it and applying it in their daily lives, and sharing the experience with each other and other people around them. This book is many things. It is a powerful introduction to the Course in very non-religious terms, which may be helpful to some aspiring students. The book is also a comment on the practice of the Course's Development of Trust section (in the Manual for Teachers, Chapter 4, M-4.A3-8) , and in the process it provides clarification on the Course's teaching of the Holy Relationship. Both of these last two are very inspiring aspects of the Course's teachings, as much as they befuddle many readers, and the guidance provided in this book gives us an answer for living and learning by providing some very powerful hand holding to readers who may find themselves struggling with the same issues.

To paraphrase the Markan quotation above in simplest possible terms, to those outside (i.e. identified with the ego, living in duality) it all comes in parables (of necessity, since in duality all is parable, which we can read either with the ego or with the Holy Spirit). But to his disciples individually he explains everything, i.e. when we go inside, and enter into a relationship with Jesus or the Holy Spirit, clarity comes because we can now see those parables with the Holy Spirit, in the light of Reason - at that point they are first forgiven and then understood. It all comes down to letting go of projection, and climbing into the observer seat with J. Talking about it in Course study groups or workshops is not enough, practicing it is what matters.

The book Take Me To Truth was born from living the Course, and it is an open invitation to the reader to do the same. The first most notable aspect of this book is that it is simply a good introduction to the Course, or perhaps I should call it an "on-ramp" to the Course, for it manages to introduce Course concepts effectively without any of the religious language in the Course. Since the seeming Christian terminology of the Course can be hard to take for some, this may prove very helpful, though I do believe that while the Course is not everyone's path, if it is your path, getting clarity about your relationship with Jesus and/or the Holy Spirit is most likely part of that process, for a lot of cultural stereotypes, including the "bitter idol" we made of Jesus in Christianity is undone exactly through sorting out our initial tendency to misunderstand the terminology, which only appears to be Christian. This aspect would be my reason for calling the book more an on-ramp to the Course than an introduction in the narrow sense, but having said that, the authors accomplished something truly remarkable, without any real compromise to anything the Course teaches. Their approach ensures that this book is not a "Course book," in the narrow sense, for it ranges more widely than the Course, though the thought model of the Course is definitely its foundation. In short, people may read this book simply because it's good, and it may happen to introduce them to the Course in a novel way, if they weren't Course students already, but it's not a necessity.

The book effortlessly incorporates the notion of Byron Katie's "The Work," which indeed is a very solid and also non-Christian sounding approach to the Course's notion of thought reversal, of truly changing our mind through forgiveness. It is an elegant and simple process, which simply shunts the entire train of our thoughts on to a different track altogether. "The Work" is an utterly practical implementation of the Course's forgiveness process. The book leverages other ideas as well, in particular also the Enneagram as a personality inventory, which can be helpful in becoming more aware of one's patterns in this particular life we think we are leading just now, and becoming more conscious of the games we (tend to) play is a very important step in any process of spiritual growth. I have tried the Enneagram, specifically by taking the on-line test which the book recommends (RHETI 2.5), and it is interesting though personally I perhaps relate more easily to astrology, but for many people the Enneagram may be more readily accessible. I personally ended up getting an ambiguous result among several categories, the main benefit of which is that I get to retake the test for free all the time, which adds up to quite a bit of savings, at $10 each.

Next the book explores the dynamics of special relationships and the reasons why our special relationships can be the most powerful classroom for undoing the ego, since evidently all our own issues are comprised in them. Once again it clarifies an important Course teaching without getting caught up in Course language, doing it instead in straightforward everyday language. And while the basis of the authors' story is their making this journey together, they also pay at least some attention to what seems to be the more frequent situation, that one of the two in a relationship is working on a Course journey without any apparent participation or interest from the other party. At which point we may remember with Gary Renard that the only good relationship is a forgiven relationship, for it is only forgiveness which returns us home, and helps us to truly live the Holy Relationship in all our relationships. Cooperation from significant others is not required, simply because in essence we are forgiving ourselves in the end, through learning, with the Holy Spirit (or the Universal Inspiration, as the authors call it), to see ourself (but truly) in the partners in our special relationship.

Having thoroughly explained why our special relationships are our best classroom (because they mirror us), the bulk of the book could be read as a commentary to the Course's section on the Development of Trust, from the Course's Manual for Teachers, again presented in straightforward language, without making it per se necessary to consult the Course. This remains quite a feat! Undoubtedly this section (Chapters 5 and 6) are the high point of the book, and if I were to describe the book to a Course student, I'd call it a commentary to the Development of Trust. To a more general audience I might represent it as a guide for undertaking a journey of spiritual growth in the context of our most important relationships.

These chapters are extraordinary, for most people, myself included have quite a challenge with that particular section of the Course, and here it is, all in very clear, unambiguous language. The book correctly warns us that we don't always go through these stages in an orderly fashion, but sometimes may find ourselves switching back to an earlier stage, which is probably the main reason why people have such difficulty comprehending this section, because it seems we can never figure out where we are in the process. This is a bit like a long dive, when you come up you can see how far you made it, but while you are under water, you just keep on going as long as you can. Most of us have a terrible tendency to go scuba diving instead of swimming across, and as a result we work though the stages of the development of trust in a disorderly fashion, although we will gain clarity about it as we go along. The explanations here are crystal clear, including a diagram on the misalignment of our needs and wants through this process, which I'm sure will shed a lot of light for many readers.

The book has an occasional flourish of New Age veneer, particularly in some reflections on where we are in our evolution, as if this time were better than any other time for waking up. It seems to me it is the other way around, since we will choose whatever circumstances are most conducive to our growth, so of course this time is better for waking up than any other, if that's what we chose, and that's why we chose it. Within the illusion of time and space there may be a point, just as much as with Helen's "celestial speedup," and Pursah's comment to Gary Renard that it is more rewarding to be a Course student now than it was to be a disciple of Jesus two thousand years ago. Other examples are a quote on page 119, that little children and animals
would somehow be similar to enlightened people, and that flies in the face of the Course notion that everyone comes into this world with a fully formed ego. Jesus however does use the "become like little children" sometimes in the sense of letting go of our self-importance and judgments, and instead ask for help in order to enter the Kingdom - so in that respect the image has validity.

I do believe we should understand what the authors call a Unified Relationship as a special case in the curriculum of the Holy Relationship. For the Holy Relationship does not require two people, but only one, who can be "the saner of the two" in terms of the Course, to realize the Holy Relationship. There are no guarantees that our significant others in this particular time will come along at the same tempo in form, nor should students be dependent on that in any way, but evidently it can be very powerful if we can experience it in such a context, as the authors share with us from their own life in this book. However logically, once we accept the Atonement for ourselves, all our relationships would become a reflection of the Holy Relationship, though the experience in form may be odd and out of sync at times - the standard example being that no one would argue the crucifixion to be a peaceful experience.

In conclusion, I could only say that this book is a truly inspired work, and an inspiring read. In the process of reading it twice this year, I experienced that first hand, through a lot of integration that happened in the process of reading it. The material from the Course and other sources is so well integrated, and the paraphrasing of the Course's sometimes arcane usage is so crystal clear, that I really do believe a general reader could successfully read this book, without any need to consult the Course, which is high praise indeed. Having said that, I could not imagine why any reader who did not know the Course before, would fail to become interested in the process of reading this book. My point rather is that Take Me To Truth reflects such maturity and integration, that this in and of itself is perhaps the best advertising that the Course actually means what it says, given that Jesus in the Course clearly states that his goal as a teacher is to make himself superfluous, while the ego's teachers always teach at their pupil's expense, as they need to build themselves up, and thus they strive for dependence instead of true independence. Jesus in the Course strives for equality, and this book demonstrates that he means it, and that it works as advertised. To his disciples individually he explained everything. Still does, evidently.

Copyright, © 2007 Rogier F. van Vlissingen. All rights reserved.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

St Christopher - Christophorus

This legendary Saint was removed from the roster by the Catholic Church, because the historical accuracy of the story was in doubt. We can presently look at this anew, and recognize that the spiritual accuracy of the story cannot be open to any doubt.

As legend has it, Reprobus was a Roman of giant stature (and of course "Roman" a subject of Caesar, much like "Jew" in the NT materials) symbolizes one who had loyalties to something other than Jesus, and one day he decided to follow Jesus. He ended up making his living ferrying people over a ford in a wild river, because with his stature he could give them the support necessary to do so.

One day a child came to him and wanted to be carried across, and Reprobus took the child on his back, only to find out that the child became heavier and heavier, and finally revealed to him that he was Jesus. And he baptized Christophorus in the wild river, and told him that henceforth his name was to be Christophorus, i.e. "Christ bearer," and advised him to plant his staff firmly in the ground, where it promptly turned into a fruit-bearing tree. And then the legend has it that this miracle converted many. That last part sounds like typical Christian proselytizing, which is hardly the point of the story. If anything the point of the story is that in the words of the Course the path the of Atonement, which seems so unduly heavy to us at times in the end leads to the realization that we're giving up nothing for everything, and in imagery that has strong parallels in the Jesus tradition (some of the Thomas and Q sayings), our barren staff with which we support ourselves (barely) in this world, turns into a fruit-bearing tree that feeds us abundantly, beyond our wildest dreams.

We may also be reminded here of Thomas Logion 90, which in Pursah's rendering says: "Come to me, for my yoke is comfortable and my lordship is gentle, and you will find the rest for yourselves." For indeed, it is the ego in us which finds the thinks that Jesus seems to ask of us to be a heavy burden, but the truth is that the ego in us has to become less so that Jesus can become more, and we momentarily realize that the only burden was the ego's resistance, and that in the world Jesus leads us into all is light and abundance.

Acknowledgment: the spiritual significance of the Christophorus legend was first brought to my attention through the work of Jan Willem Kaiser. (For some more background info the link under the title will connect the reader to a Wikipedia entry on St. Christopher.)

Copyright, © 2007 Rogier F. van Vlissingen. All rights reserved.

Corrupting the Tradition - Insights from Pursah's Thomas Kernel

Evidently, there is a deeper reason why in Chapter 7 of Your Immortal Reality Pursah discusses both the modern day corruptions of the Course and the traditional corruptions of Jesus' sayings in the Thomas Gospel and its evolution in the first four centuries, until it was buried and preserved, only to be rediscovered at Nag Hammadi in 1945.

There are numerous angles of this "meta" message (latent content, versus overt content), to be considered here.

First, by the very fact of the providing the revised messages, (sayings), Pursah makes the point of demonstrating just how the corruptions happened, and for anyone who has had any exposure at all to historical text-critical research, the outcomes make a lot of sense, far beyond what one would ever have a hope of reconstructing via the text critical method, simply because the evidence is always patchy. Traditional historical text-criticism might have a problem accepting Pursah's authority in this context, but if that is not your problem, then Pursah's kernel of Thomas is altogether very plausible, because it eliminates a lot of internal contradictions, and it shows in a lot of ways a very likely path which the corruption of the tradition could have taken.

Some of the corrections Pursah offers are slight, and address shades of meaning, others really highlight major distortions, and provide us insight of how that process of distortion happened. Examples are Logia 6 & 14, which Pursah contracts into a single one, and the minute you read it, it makes a lot of sense, and you end up amazed at the embellishments in the Nag Hammadi version, where the second half of 6 and the
first half of 14 appear to be embellishments from a later date, which create an entirely different sayings, not to mention are a lot less coherent in that later form than in the form Pursah suggests as the original one.

Second, there are any number corrections which reflect minor interpretive embellishments both by adding words and by word choices. These are readily evident by a casual comparison of the Pursah-text to the Nag Hammadi-based translations into English.

Third there is the overall effect of demonstrating how different forces pulled a tradition in different directions, and to anyone who has done some reading about the history of early Christianity -- and I mean the first three centuries before the notion of Christianity proper was even explicitly defined at all -- this makes a lot of sense. Then, by juxtaposing the various recent "controversies" (in whose eyes?) surrounding the Course, this provides yet another level of looking at and understanding the forces that could pull such a tradition one way or another, and we should be most grateful that the Course was available to us in written form, and did not go through a generation of oral tradition before being put into book form. Even so it is amazing how much distortion is possible, given the unlimited amounts of ill will and distortion we all are capable of - if we want to put our belief in it.

Thus we realize that then as now the point simply is to focus either on listening and practicing this path, which will take different forms for all of us, though the content is the same, or somehow to compromise it by maintaining a separatist interpretation of this Course, not to mention separatist versions of the Course itself. The latter is how the ego ensures that it, not Jesus or the Holy Spirit, is in charge of our spiritual path, and we stay safely within the perimeter of the insane asylum of the ego, even if we may wander off to the outer edges of the property. Or to speak with Plato, it is the ego that keeps us locked in the cave, making sure we don't pay attention to the madman, who is telling us of the light outside.

Copyright, © 2007 Rogier F. van Vlissingen. All rights reserved.

Ekklesia and the Real Church

Christ is reborn as but a little Child each time a wanderer would leave his home. For he must learn that what he would protect is but this Child, Who comes defenseless and Who is protected by defenselessness. Go home with Him from time to time today. You are as much an alien here as He. (ACIM:W-182.10)

In the first six Chapters of the text, Jesus deals with the major issues of the distortion of his message, as well as his identity, suggesting sometimes that certain Biblical passages could be open to a right minded reading, whereas in other cases he outright dismisses certain parts of the tradition about him as being obviously in error.

Later on in the Course Jesus periodically offers us passages which to the attentive reader are reinterpretations of the content of the traditions about him, which may shed new light on the original meaning behind certain traditions, Biblical as well as extra-canonical. The passage above contains one of these gems.

It should be readily apparent that the apostles in general model all of us in how we grow in our relationship with Jesus through many stumbles and foibles that constantly get in the way when we waffle and fall back into choosing the devil we knew, the ego, and let go of Jesus' loving guidance. So Simon the waffler was all of us, and to all of us Jesus said to become the rock on which he builds his "church." This was taken by some as an exhortation to go into the real estate business, but a few (as in: "All are chosen, few chose to listen.") have always understood this on a spiritual level as the spiritual community of those who follow Jesus, out of this world, to a Kingdom not of this world of which he speaks to us, if we have ears to hear.

There are some interesting details in the original text of the New Testament, namely the actual (Greek rendering of the) word which Jesus used, and which has been rendered as "church." The Greek word is actually "ekklesia," which could be rendered as "out-calling" i.e. it is the gathering of the faithful, who respond to Jesus' call to drop the work of their hands and follow him. And, like he always teaches in parables, this also needs to be understood symbolically. The "ekklesia" is the gathering which forms when we leave our "homes" in this world, to join with Jesus for the journey to our real Home in heaven. Likewise Jesus was not calling us to give up our jobs, but to give up our investment in our accomplishments in this world, by following him to the Kingdom not of this world. And that community which forms in responses to the call surely is his "ekklesia."

Now read the paragraph above one more time. Each time we (one of the sonship) leave the safety of our (substitute) homes in this world, i.e. leave behind the emotional dependence of the would-be safety in the illusion, where everything is built on quicksand, for the path that will make us into a rock of faith, in response to his calling ("ekklesia"), the Christ is reborn in us. He also reminds us again that like there was no room for the Christ child at the Inn, neither do we pregnant with the Christ child in us have a home in this world, and we cannot but follow him, back to the Home of our Father in Heaven.

Note, the basic exegesis of the proper meaning of "ekklesia" as indicated above goes back to the work of Jan Willem Kaiser, which I'm engaged in translating.

Copyright, © 2007 Rogier F. van Vlissingen. All rights reserved.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

The Truth Shall Set You Free

To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said: "If you hold to my teaching you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth shall set you free." (Jn 8:32)

And in the Course we have:
Since you cannot not teach, your salvation lies in teaching the exact opposite of everything the ego believes. This is how you will learn the truth that will set you free, and will keep you free as others learn it of you. The only way to have peace is to teach peace. By teaching peace you must learn it yourself, because you cannot teach what you still dissociate. Only thus can you win back the knowledge that you threw away. An idea that you share you must have. It awakens in your mind through the conviction of teaching it. Everything you teach you are learning. Teach only love, and learn that love is yours and you are love.
" (ACIM:T-6.3.4)

There are numerous other references to this statement in the Course. In both of these traditions we can see the same Jesus - the statement in John is totally consistent with the clarification he offers in the Course, and in the meantime we should carefully note how this statement has been badly distorted in the teaching of the world.

For once we manage--as Christianity did--to pull Jesus into the world and reinterpret his teaching as a moralistic teaching within a dualistic framework of good and evil, then 'truth' promptly becomes misunderstood in the ego framework as being 'truthful,' i.e. to honor 'how it really happened," when instead the teaching of love is that nothing really did happen, which is the Atonement.

So the supposed virtue of truthfulness in the ego's world means allegiance the truths that set us free (supposedly), are the accusations of ourselves (confession!) or of our brothers (telling the 'truth,' including such 'virtues' as whistleblowing, etc.), in flagrant denial of the fact that the whole thing is a lie. The freedom that is promised in these virtuous actions, is along the lines of 'getting it off your chest,' and similar notions, which feeds into the ego's black-jack system where guilt is OK, as long as we can pass it on to someone else, and we are oblivious to the fact that this keeps the guilt alive, whereas forgiveness truly sets us free. As the Course makes very clear, not only do these kinds of truths not set us free, they are the chains of accusation with which we keep our brothers and ourselves in bondage, be reinforcing the separation. So the self-serving respect for truth on a worldly level is all about making the world and the separation real and thus about making a liar out of Jesus.

The correction he offers in the Course is to make it clear that if we teach love and forgiveness, we must first be accepting it in our own hearts, and thus we learn forgiveness and love by teaching it, and this is the teaching of truth Jesus was and is passing on to us, and asks us to take into our lives and the world. And it has nothing to do with teaching the Course, the Gospel, or any other formal teaching, for it is a teaching that goes beyond words entirely, and it's truth is in the experience of it. That is living in the truth that shall set us free.

There are many passages in the Course which show us how the ego's judgment serves merely to reinforce the bonds of guilt on our brothers and ourselves, and keep us in chains forever. And many passages show us the way out through forgiveness and Jesus' teaching of love, such as the following section from "The Holy Instant":
We said before that the ego attempts to maintain and increase guilt, but in such a way that you do not recognize what it would do to you. For it is the ego's fundamental doctrine that what you do to others you have escaped. The ego wishes no one well. Yet its survival depends on your belief that you are exempt from its evil intentions. It counsels, therefore, that if you are host to it, it will enable you to direct its anger outward, thus protecting you. And thus it embarks on an endless, unrewarding chain of special relationships, forged out of anger and dedicated to but one insane belief; that the more anger you invest outside yourself, the safer you become.
It is this chain that binds the Son of God to guilt, and it is this chain the Holy Spirit would remove from his holy mind. For the chain of savagery belongs not around the chosen host of God, who cannot make himself host to the ego. In the name of his release, and in the Name of Him Who would release him, let us look more closely at the relationships the ego contrives, and let the Holy Spirit judge them truly. For it is certain that if you will look at them, you will offer them gladly to Him. What He can make of them you do not know, but you will become willing to find out, if you are willing first to perceive what you have made of them.

Copyright, © 2007 Rogier F. van Vlissingen. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Special Relationships - the Ego's Obfuscation of the Holy Relationship

One of the key things to understand, which as always becomes experientially clearer only through working with the Course is that the ego's methodology is very predictable and always the same. It's business is to sell us on duality as a substitute for reality, and does everything in its might to keep our attention fully engaged at that level so as to distract us completely from our reality which is in oneness.

The Course is all about relationships - and that is what is perhaps most unique about the Course that it teaches our relationships are our classrooms to get home - once we invite the Holy Spirit as our teacher. The ego uses relationships to distract us to the maximum extent possible. And preferably dresses it all up in a religious aura, at which point we need to appreciate that the ego's use of religion is as a way to obfuscate and protect from examination the faulty assumptions on which its logic rests. In other words to the ego religion is a defense mechanism, and it uses the cloak of spirituality to prevent exposure of its premises.

The culmination of the ego's relationships is surely marriage, which in the church becomes a sacrament, and is surrounded with appropriate mythology. This is the elevation of special relationships to new would-be spiritual and religious heights, whereby the ego literally dresses itself up for Sunday. And so on a worldly level it is now the relationship between two bodies, a man and a woman which is being declared sacred, and the celebration of specialness is substituted for the meaning of the Holy Relationship, which would have us see our true Self, "the face of Christ" as the Course calls it in all our brothers. Naturally such sacraments and mysteries of the faith are not open to examination, since the ego cannot bear the uncovering of its unfounded assumptions, lest it should go back to "the nothingness from which it came," (ACIM:M-13.1:2) like all other ego thoughts must when they are brought into the light.

In the world all relationships are designed to be special and exclusive, and serve the purpose of clouding over the one betrayal that we make real by virtue of our worship of specialness and separation, which is the ego thought itself , the thought of separation, the thought that the "tiny mad idea" could really be real, just because of our say so. And so we have the notions of faithfulness, adultery, jealousy, loyalty and so on in the world, between separated individuals, and a whole code of presumably virtuous behavior, as well as institutions to make real our faithlessness and sinfulness by the seeming absolution which is solidly founded on "confessing" our sins and making them very real. And so these institutions elevate the ego's forgiveness to destroy to an art form, and are dutifully maintained by us. We have special relationships pertaining to "intimacy" defined in various ways, marriage being only one of them, but we have business loyalties, brand loyalties, and so on, constantly fooling ourselves with the virtues of being loyal to something that isn't worth being loyal to, while denying our loyalty to our true Self in the process. The Course puts it this way:

You do not realize how much you have misused your brothers by seeing them as sources of ego support. As a result, they witness to the ego in your perception, and seem to provide reasons for not letting it go. Yet they are far stronger and much more compelling witnesses for the Holy Spirit. And they support His strength. It is, therefore, your choice whether they support the ego or the Holy Spirit in you. And you will recognize which you have chosen by their reactions. A Son of God who has been released through the Holy Spirit in a brother is always recognized. He cannot be denied. If you remain uncertain, it is only because you have not given complete release. And because of this, you have not given a single instant completely to the Holy Spirit. For when you have, you will be sure you have. You will be sure because the witness to Him will speak so clearly of Him that you will hear and understand. You will doubt until you hear one witness whom you have wholly released through the Holy Spirit. And then you will doubt no more.

The way forward becomes simple and clear the more we take the trouble to actually look honestly with Jesus at all the hidden assumptions which the ego never wants us to questions, just so as to be able to keep up the charade a while longer. And on the way we end up cracking ourselves up when we see the seriousness with which we maintain all of these presumed worldly virtues, once we start getting it that they are in fact nothing but our pledge of allegiance to the ego system, which does not even work, for it may be "foolproof," but it is definitely not "God proof." (ACIM:T-5.VI.10:6) It is upon us to let the light shine in, which begins with questioning the ego. The path to the Holy Relationship begins when in our relationships we learn to be true to our true Self, by following Jesus, instead of our idol worship of specialness at the altar of the ego.

Copyright, © 2007 Rogier F. van Vlissingen. All rights reserved.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Do This in Remebrance of Me.

In T-2.V.17:2 the Course says the following:
My request "Do this in remembrance of me" is the appeal for cooperation of miracle workers.

One might wonder 'this' would refer to. Certainly not the construct which Pauline Christianity makes of it, namely the questionable and somewhat cannibalistic celebration of his body, supposedly to remember that he was once with us, in times when he no longer is, as in after the crucifixion.

Such interpretation is the complete opposite of what Jesus teaches in the Course. And, we might add, as Jesus taught, period - as the careful study of the kernel of Thomas which Pursah handed us in Gary Renard's Your Immortal Reality would reveal.

In other words the interpretation given to these words - leaving aside altogether the Pauline theology of vicarious salvation which is also inextricably woven into the theology of this particular gospel passage, from Lk. 22:19, in the Course's terms is certainly not that we should in the future commemorate the erstwhile presence of Jesus' body with us. The cooperation of miracle workers at any time lies in the ability to join with Jesus whenever needed, because the miracle worker would know that he's always present to us whenever we are ready to question the ego's judgment of situations, and depend on his help rather than our own judgment.

A passage in Chapter 7 makes the whole teaching even clearer:
You cannot forget the Father because I am with you, and I cannot forget Him. 2 To forget me is to forget yourself and Him Who created you. 3 Our brothers are forgetful. 4 That is why they need your remembrance of me and of Him Who created me. 5 Through this remembrance, you can change their minds about themselves, as I can change yours. 6 Your mind is so powerful a light that you can look into theirs and enlighten them, as I can enlighten yours. 7 I do not want to share my body in communion because this is to share nothing. 8 Would I try to share an illusion with the most holy children of a most holy Father? 9 Yet I do want to share my mind with you because we are of one Mind, and that Mind is ours. 10 See only this Mind everywhere, because only this is everywhere and in everything. 11 It is everything because it encompasses all things within itself. 12 Blessed are you who perceive only this, because you perceive only what is true. (ACIM:T-7.V.10:4)

Evidently the punch line is in line 7, where he clarifies that he does not want to share his body with us, but rather he wants to share his mind with us. And moreover he wants us to share his reality with others by choosing to join with him at any time and represent his teaching of love in so doing. So the point of this particular statement is to emphasize the reality of his presence to us, whenever we choose the miracle, as opposed to celebrating the memory of his body as some kind of a magical cure, which of course in the ego's sick imagining obviates the need of choosing the atonement for ourselves, by maintaining an idol of Jesus as a magical savior which would leave the ego firmly in charge and removes the threat that we could change our minds by choosing against the ego.

Then in Chapter 8, he elaborates on this further in two passages, of which the first one reads:
When you meet anyone, remember it is a holy encounter. As you see him you will see yourself. As you treat him you will treat yourself. As you think of him you will think of yourself. Never forget this, for in him you will find yourself or lose yourself. Whenever two Sons of God meet, they are given another chance at salvation. Do not leave anyone without giving salvation to him and receiving it yourself. For I am always there with you, in remembrance of you.
unquote (ACIM:T-8.III.4)

And in this way he reminds us of the reality of his presence to us in every encounter, if we would merely choose the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and thus recognize our Self in our brothers, by trusting in the spirit in them. And so his presence is with us in every encounter, for every encounter is a Holy Encounter, if we do not let the ego's specialness limit it.

Copyright, © 2007 Rogier F. van Vlissingen. All rights reserved.