Thursday, November 13, 2008

Is Guidance a Dirty Word?

In Dutch newspapers there has been an uproar in recent days about the release of the report of the Beel commission, which dates from 1956, when there was a practical constitutional crisis seemingly caused by the contact of H.M. Queen Juliana with a woman, described in the press mostly as a "faith healer," Ms. Magaretha "Greet" Hofmans. The details do not matter if you were not closely involved, but the upshot is that there were accusations floating around this issue when it happened that suggested that this woman might have undue influence on the Queen. That impression was certainly not obviated by some of the things the Queen said about the situation, and thus there was an appearance of impropriety that needed to be avoided in order to forestall a crisis of confidence. In the end the Queen was forced to sever relations, including severing relations with all her staff who had been part of the developments, in order to make a clean slate, and so the incident faded into the background. Questions about what really happened always remained however. And at least the publication of this official report from that time, pursuant to the Dutch equivalent of a freedom of information request, is certainly a helpful step in clearing things up.

Without going over all the details of this story which remain irrelevant, there is one central theme which remains, and that is that in this society, as adults we are responsible for our own decisions. Therefore I never have time for people who "feel guided" to do something. That is just about the worst copout you can think of. The truth of it is, that if you truly let yourself be guided by the Holy Spirit in your decisions, that you will not increase guilt with your decisions, and you will not feel guilty in any way for your subsequent actions, which allows one a wonderful sense of freedom, but it never ever does mean that one does not take full responsibility for one's actions. Abraham Lincoln's lovely expression for this is " the better angels of our nature," and decisions made with this guidance have that incomparable feeling of being in the flow, and having no resistance or guilt associated with them. Those are the times when we know we're doing the right thing, and have no problem taking responsibility for our actions. Thus the experience of such guidance does not diminish but rather enhances the sense of full commitment to and responsibility for one's decisions, without any need to become either defensive or apologetic, ever. The ego's decisions by comparison always remain debatable, which is why we can become fiercely defensive, when we meet opposition to them, exactly because we are not sure of ourselves (the ego being our false self in the first place), and we promptly proceed to get into those scenes, which Shakespeare masterfully characterized as " The lady does protest too much, me thinks," which is always a dead giveaway for the ambivalent kind of decision making we do with the ego.

Rather, the need to inform others that we felt guided to do something misses the point entirely, and at worst seems only to make others feel inferior, seeming to impress them with what a holy person we are. Thus it becomes a not so subtle put down, in the same vein as some vegetarians deem themselves superior to others, and try to sow guilt wherever they can, instead of just simply doing it because it makes us feel better, and leaving others alone.

Ken Wapnick offers a wonderful way of undoing this particular fallacy, when he points out that we all channel all the time--either the ego or the Holy Spirit. Which it is will have a major impact on how we feel, but is irrelevant to the outside world for all practical purposes. The Course's forgiveness process does not involve going up to a person and telling them that you forgive them, because ultimately you're not forgiving them, but yourself, and in that same vein learning to let the Holy Spirit guide our actions is irrelevant to others, for it only has to make do with learning to accept the atonement for myself.

Copyright, © 2008 Rogier F. van Vlissingen. All rights reserved.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Mighty Companions

Following some approximately parallel conversations with two friends on this topic, I just want to write this post as a wrap up about the experience of Mighty Companions.

First, I am quite sure that in the Course Jesus uses an ambiguous term like this on purpose, because he wants us to fill it in, and not limit it, since our primary problem is that our egos always want to define and limit everything.

For one thing, it does seem that our "enemies" do become "partners in forgiveness" and sometimes even without their active cooperation in form. In that fashion, I had a very profound forgiveness experience in one of my major special relationships, during a period of total unsettling in that relationship, which really shook me to my foundation and in which I totally experienced that we were completely one, as I shifted from wanting to push her off the figurative edge of the cliff, before she did it to me, and into an experience of total forgiveness. This was shortly before we parted ways, and though we've never communicated since then, for me that was a total healing of that relationship, and an experience that stayed with me as a comfort in moments of doubt.

Another issue concerned the experience of a friend who was talking to a person who was completely focused on and obsessed with communicating with the dead, which seems to be a way of continuing special relationships beyond the grave, and making a big deal about the difference between life and death, and therefore very much serves as a corroboration of the ego system. I connected this to a conversation with another friend about the author Jan Willem Kaiser and his dislike for any personality cult, to which my friend observed that this was in effect the difference between right minded hearing and wrong minded hearing. So that the wrong minded hearing is about communicating with "the dead" all of which remains within the ego system,
because it makes life and death in this manifest world very real, whereas in the right minded sense all our relationships in the end become the Holy Relationship, and the persona can thus become a loving reminder, and, if you will, a compromise to us who are still in the dream (the real world is still part of the dream), and can be our Mighty Companions, Angels, or Messengers of Heaven, conduits for the voice of the Holy Spirit, and our partners in forgiveness.

I also relate this to the story of the apparent experience of Ms. Hofmans in the development of her channeling a former spiritual teacher after he died. My intuition tells me it was Kaiser who clarified for her that she was not channeling the teacher, who had been a poultry farmer in life, but Jesus, and that her teacher in the flesh (at one time) was just a comfortable symbol to her, and so lateron (when I knew her, starting at ca. 4 yrs of age), she was speaking in strictly generic terms of "the Help," or "God's Help," which I realized is simply the meaning of the name
Jeshua. It is for this reason that J. W. Kaiser labels the channeled messages which came through Ms. Hofmans as "Logia." To him they were Jesus sayings just as much as the Thomas Logia, or any other sayings of Jesus. In this same sense as students of ACIM we have clearly accepted the entire Course as a direct message from Jesus.

There is also the statement at the end of the temptations in the desert in Mt. 4:1-11 where it states how "Angels" (Gr. Angeloi) were serving him, after he decided against the ego -- i.e. the ego "tempts" us with all it has to offer, which are always "baubles" or seeming power, glory, self-will etc. and our only function is to keep denying the denial of truth (the "Devil"), and to choose
"not this," just as Jesus does not fall for any of those "offers you can't refuse" which the ego extends to him in that episode - and so demonstrates the truth that will set us free.

Finally I do also think that the experience of "Mighty Companions" is in that unspeakable knowledge of having firm ground underfoot, even while it looks like s-h-i-t in worldly terms, but which inside we know is a 180-degree difference from the feeling of slip-sliding around in the quicksand of the ego. In that form the sense of "Mighty Companions" is more abstract, and has the ring of "God's Help," in a way we do not tend to personalize, but still know in our hearts.

Alongside all this I think Kaiser's discussion of Angels is extremely important, including his clarity that the whole Angelology of early and medieval Christianity (and we could extend this to its modern counterparts such as Doreen Virtue, et al.), are nothing but another attempt for the ego to manage and understand, and catalogue a phenomenon which then risks getting in the way of the actual experience, because now our intellect (and the ego) gets its hands on it again. It is along those lines that Jesus uses the deliberately vague terminology of Mighty Companions.

Copyright, © 2008 Rogier F. van Vlissingen. All rights reserved.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Undoing the Ego in the Big Apple

Leave it to Nouk Sanchez and Tomas Vieira, of Take Me To Truth fame, to have the unmitigated gall of doing a workshop on just such a topic, right here in New York City! Of course, it also happens to be the subtitle of their book.

As the organizer, I even had some reactions from friends--meant to be funny--who found out about the workshop and made a point of saying they were going to pass on undoing the ego. It is after all our favorite bauble, and until you become wholly clear that it is nothing--not to mention the cause of all our pain--all of us remain convinced it means giving up the world and our life. How ridiculous can you get! It is only from realizing, through often painful experience, that we did in fact trade our souls and our lives to the Devil, that we start to understand the horrendous cost, and the understanding may dawn that we are only giving up nothing for everything. The monster then is destined to collapse "into the nothingness from which it came" as the Course calls it, for only our belief upholds it.

At some level this part always reminds me of a conversation with a friend who was translating some medieval book on magic from Latin, forty years ago as I write this, in which the instructions for a certain magical ritual made it very clear that the adept was to in fact learn spells to control certain evil spirits, which they themselves had evoked to begin with. I thought that was hilarious at the time, and an interesting commentary on the human condition, but I was not ready to see then that this is what we all are doing all of our lives, leave alone being ready at that time to seriously learn to want to give it up.

However, once you realize you are looking for ways to find the exits from a burning building, you could do worse than to stumble into a workshop with Nouk & Tomas. Their uniquely dynamic family experience of learning the Course, as a couple, and then with their daughter, is quite unprecedented, and truly an inspiration to us all. Tomas's very extroverted, not to mention dramatic, personality is just the right vehicle for making the experience come to life in ways that allow us all to identify with it and become actively engaged in the process.

One of my favorite quips from Ken Wapnick, is that the only shortcut to doing the Course, is doing the Course, and Nouk and Tomas are dong it, living it and sharing the process with whoever is ready to get serious about their own work with the Course. Besides the fact that their presentation is absolutely engaging, and succeeded in holding the attention and participation of everyone in our workshop this weekend, I also found that they managed to do this in such a way as not to bring out the unhealed healers in the group. Many attempts to bring out the experiential dimension of our Course work in a group setting, be it on-line or in personal encounters, carry the risk of unleashing the unhealed healers in force, so that things deteriorate into people telling everyone else how to do the Course. Nouk and Tomas have just the right presentation, and are very alert to those kinds of pitfalls exactly because they have made all the mistakes in their own learning experience, and can share that and guide the session into some very rewarding exercises, some based on their own book, some based on Byron Katie's work.

Another gift that comes with the presentation of this dynamic duo is that their presentation is not heavy in Course language, so that even people who are not steeped in the Course are able tune in without much of a problem. Finally, amidst a lot of lightness and laughter there is a profound dedication to learning and living the Course, without one iota of compromise to its principles.

Their focus on the section on The Development of Trust, in the workshop, as much as in their book, can help many students in that very process, for the purpose of the section is to help us learn to trust that process, without underestimating the difficulties along the way. One common pitfall with this section is that people want to know where they are in the process, which can in and of itself become another detour, as Nouk shared in the form of some of her own setbacks. So that, while on one hand the section can provide some overall comfort and trust with the process, we derail that process if we invite our ego in to co-manage it, by falling into the trap of analyzing our own progress--all of which is heavily ego-bound activity. Having an up close and personal sharing of all these pitfalls can help many of us catching ourselves in such temptations more quickly, and therein lies the value of learning from others who are doing the work. Thus the final demonstration is again that teaching the Course is done by being a faithful student ourselves, and doing the work, and that practical common sense pervaded this workshop.

Copyright, © 2008 Rogier F. van Vlissingen. All rights reserved.

Sunday, May 11, 2008


A Course in Miracles, Eckhart Tolle and Jan Willem Kaiser... Oh well. For me they have all been parallel and intersecting venues for learning to hear more and more what it is Jesus really teaches, for they all talk about the same stuff, though in slightly different terminology. In that context the Course remains my principal guide, but watching the recent on-line broadcasts by Oprah Winfrey with Eckhart Tolle has been very helpful to myself and a lot of other Course students that I'm aware of.

The fact that Tolle uses slightly different terminology does not matter at all -- and yes, in the end, I feel myself still a Course student, and the relative absence of the crystalline metaphysical clarity of the Course's teaching in Tolle's presentation, as well as the very practicality of the forgiveness process in the Course, leave me feeling firmly on that track. What it's all about in the end is of course developing our own relationship with that Internal Teacher, as the Course calls him, and names, words, or terminology do not matter in that regard.

It seems clear at this point that along with the rediscovery of the Thomas Gospel, also many modern teachers and teachings are reflective of the core teachings of Jesus, and there is a growing number of sources where the emphasis is shifting to experience from belief and theology. From the mental constructs like the Nicene creed to the Initiation into the Mysteries, as first hand experience at the hand of that Teacher, not as more theology and grandiose concepts. Now, this moment of actual experience, indeed is the closest thing to eternity this life has to offer if we just learn how to step back from our temporal experience, and stop losing ourselves in our dream role.

It has been very interesting for me also to watch how Tolle repeatedly shows that he has tracked down our historical misunderstandings of Jesus to the translations of the New Testament, for clearly many of the Greek terms can be read very differently than they traditionally have been in Christian theological traditions. In every case I've heard him speak to this, his representation has been nearly the same as that which I've been used to from Jan Willem Kaiser since the last forty-plus years, which ensured that I could never read the Bible in translation any more. The Course likewise hints at this without much of the specific comments about words, but by implication, in such word choices as change of mind (which is the proper English for the word Metanoia, which the theologians have usually rendered as repentance). Theology has never understood that such a superficial change of heart does not change the underlying psychological dynamic, and thus fosters repeat offenses, since the ego's attraction to sin ensures that. If you're in doubt, listen again to Frank Zappa's song Catholic Girls. Anyone familiar with the process of confession should begin to suspect, that the real payoff is to keep sin real.

On another level the Course explicitly suggests that we have often misinterpreted the Bible by interpreting it with fear, and this in fact is where the readings of JWK and ET represent the shift to understanding Jesus's true inner teachings, in lieu of the theological constructs that were used to bury him and put him out of reach. It was lovely to hear one of the Oprah/Tolle segments (Chapter 8) amidst the growing din of would-be Christians offended by Tolle, how one Christian recognized this issue, that the real gist of the teachings was experiential, not theological, and felt himself closer to Jesus in experience with the clarifications by Tolle than without. So this seems to be the shift a lot of people find themselves in, and it surely is where the rubber meets the road, and that's why the Course says: "Do not let theology delay you." (ACIM:C-in.4:5)

Another example of this, which perhaps did not particularly come up in the conversations between Oprah and Eckhart Tolle, but which is nevertheless very important, is Jesus's expression which is usually rendered as "Go away," while what it means of course is not some kind of a authoritarian dismissal, but a loving exhortation to "go" and put into practice what he just demonstrated. In this sense it underscores that same tenor in Jesus's teachings, that it is about experience, and not about theory. "Follow me!" means the same thing. We are the unwilling students, who get our kicks out of proving the teacher wrong, and we don't realize we're hurting ourselves by postponing putting our learning into practice, and applying his teachings in our lives.

Copyright, © 2008 Rogier F. van Vlissingen. All rights reserved.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Brother Paul

In many posts on this blog, as well as in my books I have touched on the role of Paul. Equally, I am writing about him in my upcoming book Closing The Circle, as an example of bypassing part of the experience of inner growth which Jesus really represents. The Course's section on the development of trust in the Manual for Teachers (Ch. 4), provides a description of a growth process in six stages, which in reality is not an orderly sequential experience, but nevertheless is a good general guide for what happens in this journey. One of the challenges is to prematurely run with our learning along the way, and to claim achievements which aren't solidified. It is a bypass from stage two to stage four of this process, whereby a difficult period of "relinquishment" in stage three is short circuited, and such experiences are another example of the ego's having its cake and eating it too. In the book Take Me To Truth, by Nouk Sanchez and Tomas Vieira this bypass manoeuver is clearly identified, and explained in a very concrete and tangible way.

Many religions and sects in fact are founded by people who trade on their insights gained along the way, and build a souvenir stand halfway up the mountain, instead of continuing the climb. Thus they also hold up others with distractions, and people can get sidetracked by such road-side attractions on the journey. In fact, there is an interesting book about this phenomenon, with the title Halfway up the Mountain: The Error of Premature Claims to Enlightenment (1999 Hohm Press, by Mariana Caplan). So Christianity is no exception, founded as it was by Paul, who came after Jesus, but was not one of the original apostles, but who clearly had the drive, and the powerful speaking ability to popularize the message, or at least a message: as he understood Jesus at that time.

On one hand Paul clearly has a right mind too, as becomes clear when he speaks of a notion like "the peace of God with surpasses all understanding," and other beautiful passages, but for the most part with Paul starts a process whereby the teachings of Jesus, which were directed purely to finding the way home to Heaven, to a Kingdom not of this World, start to become re-framed into a world religion, and one ultimately suited for the service to Caesar in the form of the Emperor Constantine the Great some time after Paul. Constantine's dream experience of In hoc signo vinces may have been a triumph for would-be "Christianity," as much as it inspired military victories for the Emperor, but on another level, it was the final burial of anything to do with the teachings of Jesus.

The process is one of mental re-framing, of "powerful" concepts about Jesus, which get in the way of our ability to experience Jesus. This kind of conceptualization of the separated mind is always passed off by the ego as understanding, but it is in fact a defense mechanism against the direct experience of truth (and/or Jesus), thus protecting us from the vital need to surrender the ego's judgment in favor of the first hand directness of experience. It boils down to pulling Jesus down to our level instead of us coming up to his. In Paul's work all of this dialectic deliberation culminates in numerous theological positions, which have come to define Christianity, the most notable of which perhaps is his final position that the resurrection is an event of the body. The certrality of the crucifixion in and of itself is a dead giveaway (pun intended). It is not for nothing that the Course cautions us not to let theology delay us on our journey. (cf. ACIM:C-in.4:5) And the Course also offers plentiful, not to mention humorous, advice on putting the dialectic mind in its proper place, such as:

It is this that makes the holy instant so easy and so natural. You make it difficult, because you insist there must be more that you need do. You find it difficult to accept the idea that you need give so little, to receive so much. And it is very hard for you to realize it is not personally insulting that your contribution and the Holy Spirit's are so extremely disproportionate. You are still convinced that your understanding is a powerful contribution to the truth, and makes it what it is. Yet we have emphasized that you need understand nothing. Salvation is easy just because it asks nothing you cannot give right now. (ACIM:T-18.IV.7)
Finally it also makes it clear what the meaning is of deferring the ego's judgments, and listening to Jesus first, as the way to true understanding, when it says:

The real world is the state of mind in which the only purpose of the world is seen to be forgiveness. Fear is not its goal, for the escape from guilt becomes its aim. The value of forgiveness is perceived and takes the place of idols, which are sought no longer, for their "gifts" are not held dear. No rules are idly set, and no demands are made of anyone or anything to twist and fit into the dream of fear. 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. (AC IM:T-30.V.1)

This is a process that will happen to all of us in our spiritual growth, and in that sense Paul stands as a powerful reminder of how we will compromise the teachings if we follow our own mental constructs and rationalizations, and thus not only cause ourselves endless painful delays on the journey, but potentially mislead many others in the process. Hopefully, we will catch ourselves in this, before we end up fooling ourselves, and others as well. Clearly, the mature attitude is such as is evinced by Ken Wapnick, and other teachers, like also Jeddu Krishnamurti was one in my experience, who simply know they are a channel for the teaching, but who know they are not important, and their insights are nothing that is not accessible by anyone.

Whenever we catch ourselves becoming preoccupied with someone else's understanding of the Course or the truth, we know that we have sided with Paul, for we are then caught up in the ego's game of professing concepts about the truth, rather than remaining in the experience of the truth. At these times Paul can be a mirror, and hopefully we can return to doing the inner work. At times we may remind ourselves that Paul's name means "little man," and that the "tiny mad idea" (cf. ACIM:T-27.VIII.6:2) unfortunately spooks around in much of what he says, or else there would be no need to be so strident or convince anyone, since the truth needs no defense.

The true teachings are accessible by anyone in the sense of the Course's correction of the Bible, when it says:

I cannot unite your will with God's for you, but I can erase all misperceptions from your mind if you will bring it under my guidance. Only your misperceptions stand in your way. Without them your choice is certain. Sane perception induces sane choosing. I cannot choose for you, but I can help you make your own right choice. "Many are called but few are chosen" should be, "All are called but few choose to listen." Therefore, they do not choose right. The "chosen ones" are merely those who choose right sooner. Right minds can do this now, and they will find rest unto their souls. God knows you only in peace, and this is your reality. (ACIM:T-3.IV.7:7-16)

And the Holy Instant, the moment of forgiveness when we truly see ourselves as one with our brother, that is the moment when Jesus' direct teaching occurs, because his vision is then imparted to us, even if we can only stand it for a split second, this is not material, for becoming aware of the experience, we become more and more clear of the difference between the pain we experience if we take the ego as our guide, versus the peace we experience when we take Jesus for our guide. And Jesus in the Course counts on this very Pavlovian reinforcement process, in hopes that we will want to make the other choice more and more often, since ultimately the peace of the Holy Spirit will be more attractive than the pain of the ego.

And so it is our own personal experience which is really all that matters, and this is why the Course emphasizes that it is practical, and geared to practicing what it teaches, today, tomorrow, and for the rest of our lives. It is also clear that the book is something we will ultimately leave behind (see lesson 189). So, it is not about the book, or any other idol, and not about the theory, or theology, but about the experience.

As we rediscover this aspect of Jesus' teachings, we will then leave the rationalizations, the propaganda, and the judgments as well as the proselytizing of the Pauline tradition behind us, because it will become clear to us that the only reason for convincing anybody else, is because we do not believe what we profess, and we have work to do healing our own split mind in this regard, and it is simple forgiveness work.

Paul can thus be a perfect mirror and a teacher for us if once again we fall into the trap of convincing anybody else of one of our rationalizations of what the Course really says. You can rest assured it doesn't say that - whatever it is. It is just another partial understanding along the way, so it is time to keep moving with our journey, and not to exploit the fears and uncertainties of our brothers, but instead to become a living example by truly taking Jesus's hand ourselves. If we do, we would also find that it is possible to agree to disagree, like I happen to like coffee, and you like tea, or vice versa, but it does not threaten my piece of mind, nor do I have to convince you, and thus we can maintain the connection and be brothers who just happen to have different tastes or viewpoints.

Once we become strident, we raise differences to the level of separation, and it is a sure sign that the ego has us by the short ones once again. Our positions are uncertain if they are based on mental projections of the ego, for it has no foundation, except the putative "tiny mad idea" which never really happened in the first place. Finding witnesses, convincing others and proselytizing are only the ego's bad substitutes for the certainty of Knowing which is of the Holy Spirit. Raising such differences then also serves to make the ego real, and convince ourselves that our false identity is real, and you and I are difference. A little willingness to forgive would be helpful to get us out of this mess.

Copyright, © 2008 Rogier F. van Vlissingen. All rights reserved.

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Bible Revisited

Let's face it, if you read the Bible from a Judaeo-Christian point of view, you eventually must run into a solid wall of contradictions, as we were recently reminded once again by Bart Ehrman in his book God's Problem. The point is, who says you must read it that way? The literalist way of reading the book is limiting in the extreme, rather, borrowing from the Course's clear implication that duality is metaphor, and from the word traditionally ascribed to Jesus that "to those outside, everything comes in parables," (Mk 4:34) we could read many stories from a right-minded point of view, as we are starting to shift our perspective.

Looking at it with the right mind, unlike the guilt-ridden Judaeo-Christian viewpoint is there as an open invitation to anyone of us, as we begin to go our own path with Jesus's teachings, and start to recognize what it is he is talking about. Duality as metaphor becomes the key, and listening for another message than the message of sin-guilt and fear which the religions have constructed it to be.

For myself, long before A Course In Miracles, it was Dutch Author Jan Willem Kaiser, who set me on a path to discovering that meaning, and while I learnt much from him, I can honestly say that until I found ACIM, I was never able to fully appreciate what Kaiser had been showing me all along. By now I am hard at work on translations of Kaisers work, which I hope will be published in these next few years, and in fact I have published a book of four monographs by him and a book about him in the past twenty years.

Presently I'm maintaining a commentary on the Gospel according to Mark on Facebook, through - and one should note that my commentaries/notes are accessible only through Facebook, and not through the Greek Bible Study site, although they expect to add such functionality lateron. In any case my commentaries will be based on the work of Kaiser, as well as the Course, and at least one regular commentary on the Greek Bible. They are designed to help make the transition in seeing duality as metaphor completely, and listen to the story on an entirely different level. I am entering this post to note the completion of my comments on the first Chapter of Mark on April 21st, 2008, about a month after I started this entry. I hope these will be helpful to many.

Copyright, © 2008 Rogier F. van Vlissingen. All rights reserved.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Enchantress, the Moon and the Holy Spirit

In his commentary on lesson 99, Ken Wapnick, in his Journey through the workbook of A Course In Miracles, writes the following (In Volume three, on p52, in the section on 2:4-5):

The word reflect in A Course in Miracles is extremely important, because it signifies the bridge. Heaven is not possible here, nor is love, oneness, or holiness; but their reflections indeed are. You may recall the earlier statement in the workbook:
... forgiveness is the means by which I will recognize my innocence. It is the reflection of God's Love on earth. It will bring me near enough to Heaven that the Love of God can reach down to me and raise me up to Him (W-pI.60.1:4-6)
The part of our mind that contains the Holy Spirit--our right mind--represents the bridge between pure holiness, oneness, and love, and our experience that is their reflection. The reflection is an illusion, but the experience of looking at the illusions, realizing they are illusions, is the essence of vision, forgiveness and salvation.

For those of us who are so inclined, this immediately evokes the astrological symbolism of the Moon, the enchantress who with her ever changing phases, represents the dream illusions of the ego, and as the earth-satellite within us, provides the rhythms of nature, the waxing and waning, where nothing is ever constant or lasts, all powered by borrowed light (partially-sic!- reflected from the Sun). She is the rhythm of the tides, menstruation cycles, and the high tide, unrest in mental institutions, hospitals and prisons, or police know first hand the intensity of the full Moon, which is the tide when the urgency to choose is activated to the maximum, since at that point the full face of the moon reflects the Sun, and becomes a reminder of our true source, instead of the borrowed reflected light of the moon phases, which "power" the so-called life on earth indirectly in the shadow game of our dream existence here. She is the evil sorceress of many a fairy tale, by whom we are enchanted in our dream state.

As J. W. Kaiser points out in his commentary on Mark 1:2 (Beleving van het Evangelie, p.199) , she is also the Angel that "goes before thy face," namely the Moon is faster than the Sun, and in that sense always runs ahead, lighting the way, and as the Holy Spirit provides our classrooms in this world as the bridging opportunity to learning forgiveness, whenever we shift from the Ego to the Holy Spirit in our minds. Except that, as we change teachers, the Moon now becomes the reminder of the direct light of the Sun, manifested in the ever changing forms of this life.

Thus the Moon is both the enchantress which keeps us under her spell in the ego, if we are Earth centric, ego-centric, and she is the Angel that lights the way if we shift to our right mind, by asking the Holy Spirit for help, and thus orient ourselves towards the Sun instead of away from it.

As a note, I have begun to develop a commentary on the Gospel according to Mark, and you can access it through my page on Facebook, where there is a symbol "B" in the left margin, under applications. If you click on it, you will be able to join, but you can actually view the English text and my notes from my profile on Facebook, whereas if you go to the site directly, you can see the Greek text, but you can't see my notes, though that is a feature that will be added later.

Copyright, © 2008 Rogier F. van Vlissingen. All rights reserved.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Enchanted Sleep - The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of

Early in Genesis (Gen. 2:21) there is the episode of Adam falling asleep, and attentive readers throughout time have noticed that it is at this point that duality is created, expressed there with the scene of God's taking the rib from Adam's side and creating Eve. In modern spiritual literature certainly Blavatsky paid attention to this episode, and so have many others, for it sets up the condition we seem to find ourselves in in this life.
The Course in says:
Yet the Bible says that a deep sleep fell upon Adam, and nowhere is there reference to his waking up. The world has not yet experienced any comprehensive reawakening or rebirth. Such a rebirth is impossible as long as you continue to project or miscreate. It still remains within you, however, to extend as God extended His Spirit to you. In reality this is your only choice, because your free will was given you for your joy in creating the perfect. (ACIM: T-2.2.I.3:6-10)
The story of the baptism in the River Jordan, when the skies open up, and Jesus hears God's Voice, really really is the point where this has come full circle, and we wake up again to who we really are: "You are my beloved son, in whom I am very pleased." (Mk. 1:11) which is the beginning of his ministry on earth, to show us by example who we truly are, and asking him to follow him -- and certainly not to the cross. That is the thinking, the perception of the world, which always thinks the awakening is equated with death.

In myth and fairy tales there are numerous tales we find some kind of representation of our soul, our essence, asleep, enchanted, and bottled up in a form which is not its own, whether it is Cïnderella, Sleeping Beauty, or a Miracle Nightingale, or many other forms that just await their release. In any number of tales the detail shows up of how the Prince, the savior the liberator, does not fall under the spell of the evil witch, for if he did he would fall asleep too, or change into a frog, etc.

Needless to say, throughout these stories, the evil witch, the old King, the angry dwarf and all these figures who cast a spell, or lock people up, are nothing but representations of the ego, which enslaves, and chains us, as long as we are under its spell, and it is truly only the Prince, Jesus, our True Self as the Inner Teacher, which can teach us the distinction, and once more follow the spirit to freedom, and to dance into Life and there "live happily ever after."

Wonderful is the tale of the Miracle Nightingale, where it is very clear that the Prince liberates the spirit of the Nightingale, because he falls in love with the song, and not with the bird, with the content, not with the form, in other words he shows his dedication is to the spirit, not to the form, at which point he has stepped out from under the spell of the witch, and so the princess is liberated. As the Course says: "Time is a trick, a sleight of hand, a vast illusion in which figures come and go as if by magic." (ACIM:W-1.58.4:1), and that is the witch's wand, that keeps us enchanted. And the thing to get--experientially more than intellectually--is that we can make another choice, the choice for not form, but spirit, not the ego, but the Holy Spirit.

In myth and fairy tale much spiritual understanding has lived on in humanity cloaked in the form of parables, which were mostly misunderstood, but yet lived on among us. The only "divorce" which is the basis of all sadness, is the separation, i.e. our decision to leave heaven, and the "Chymical Wedding of Christian of the Rosenkreutz," and all the fairy tail weddings, in which "they lived happily ever after," reflect nothing but that decision to re-join our true self, and regain the happiness that was ours since forever, and which in truth was never lost, except while we were asleep, dreaming we were a frog. And the secret that undoes the power of the wicked witch is what Eckhart Tolle calls the Power of Now, and which A Course in Miracles calls the "miracle" or the "Holy Instant," which says essentially that it does not matter how many mistakes I made, (which our ego calls sins, and so reinforces the spell), for they are all one, and that is to give our power away to time, and to lose all power which is ours in the eternal moment of now. Eternity is not "an endless amount of time," but it is now, every time we change our mind, until we finally change our mind and re-join our true Self, which for all too long we ignored and mistreated like Cinderella, and then truly "live happily ever after," in what A Course in Miracles calls the Real World, and Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth, which goes back to the biblical terminology for this phenomenon.

Inspiration for these comments came from J. W. Kaiser's Wisdom of Fairy Tales, which I am currently translating, and hope to see in publication some time soon.

Copyright, © 2008 Rogier F. van Vlissingen. All rights reserved.

Friday, March 21, 2008

The Decisionmaker By Any Other Name

In his instruction on the Course, Ken Wapnick has introduced the term "decisionmaker," to indicate the function of the mind which enables us to make a decision. This capability is implied in the Course, though it is never so named, and is purely a didactic construct, a teaching aid. The decisionmaker makes decisions not in the same sense as the decisions we make in the world, which are between alternatives in the life we seem to live in this world, and which we are so enamored with, because they prove our maturity, our relevance, and indeed our very existence.
Those decisions are all about what the Course calls the "hero" of the dream, and his exploits in the world, and the referent (decisionmaker) of them is our presumably separate identity, an "actor" in the world, the role we play. Those decisions are made by the false self, which we routinely mistake for who and what we are. This latter however is the self of Shakespeare's "All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players," our individual identity being one of them, it just happens to be our favorite role in this particular life we think we are living now. The decisionmaker, however, decides between the false self and our true Self, between our dayjob as an individual in the world, and our true identity which we are in truth.

We are conscious of playing different roles in the world, mother or father, uncle or aunt, employer or employee, master or slave, etc., but we seldoms question who is playing them, and the Course raises this issue in many ways, and perhaps most poignantly in the distinction between the hero of the dream and the dreamer of the dream(ACIM:T-27.VII, VIII), suggesting that the mind has a choice of not having the dream of which the body is the "hero," and to wake up instead. And the Course's path is all about making the other choice, which through forgiveness we can do, one miracle at a time. And miracles they are, for to the ego it is patently impossible to change our mind, as it always keeps us firmly wrapped around the axle with its tautological arguments.

In the early literature about Jesus, the expression we most often find is Jesus's invitation to the disciples, as he is "calling" them, i.e. "Follow me," which--if the reader will permit me a slight anachronism--is reallythe answer to Bill Thetford's statement: "There must be another way!" Jesus calls them out of their existing roles and routines onto a path to a Kingdom not of this earth, which he attempts to show them in word and deed. To leave behind their living, which they earn by the sweat of their brow, and follow him on the path to Life. It is up to them to decide to follow him, and as they do so he clearly shows them to live by a different law than the laws they were used to. His is the law of all inclusive love, and the Kingdom is truly "not of this world." This is the Love in which you can love your brother as yourself, because you know experientially--through "true empathy"--that he is yourself. It is the Love in which all things are forgiven, just like Jesus forgives the apostles for sleeping when they should be awake, and forgives us in the Course (in advance!) for not doing the lessons as he asks us to.

There are many episodes in the Old Testament, the Tanakh, as well, which demonstrate this type of a decision that is based on following a deeper faith, on making an inspired choice, against our own "better" judgment, for at some points in life, when we are truly in touch with the spirit, truly inspired, we know what the Course means by saying that "the ego always speaks first," (ACIM:T-6.IV.1:2) and "The ego's decisions are always wrong, because they are based on the error they were made to uphold.: (ACIM:T-5.VI.4:2). There is Moses, who vainly protests that God should pick his brother already, because he's not suited for the task, but he goes... there is Jephthah who likewise listens and pledges anything at all for the greater wellbeing, and he goes, even when the sacrifice turns out to be his only "daughter," symbolic of that which is dearest to him--his "offspring," which you again probably read as parable.

Too often have these deeply symbolic accounts been mistaken for literal accounts, instead of what they truly are: parables, for the simple reason that all of duality is metaphor. To those of us who are outside (the relationship with Jesus), it all comes in parables, but to his apostles individually he "explains" everything. (cf. Mk 4:34) In the Course he asks us to join with him, in forgiveness, and to leave the details to the Holy Spirit. That is forgiveness, for it means the ego gets out of the way, and instead of having the ego judge and act first, deciding alone, we now become the vehicle for inspired decisions. In myth and fairy tale many comparable story lines exist, in which a seeming sacrifice is made, but which turns to an unexpected well being, born from the seeming despair of abject failure. They all indicate the same thing; that inspired moment when the ego chooses to listen to the Holy Spirit instead of to the ego.

The conundrum has always been that with our ego we cannot decide to be without ego, for the ego's tautological and self-serving logic never lets us escape its vicious circle. Hence the Course teaches very clearly that it is a course in undoing, not in doing, hence such themes as "I need do nothing." (ACIM:T-18.VII) What the Course helps us do is to not choose the ego, and ask for help from the Holy Spirit instead, and that is the only mechanism that passes through the ego's firewall within our mind. And the sales logic for making such decision which run contrary to what we think we want (with our ego), is that we'll feel better, we'll have less conflict. And for every miracle, Jesus issues us another HS Blue Stamp (in lieu of an S&H Green Stamp), and when our book is full and we finally accept the atonement for ourselves once and for all, it will be apparent that the decision was no decision, that the truth was never changed by our dream of this world. "It is a journey without distance to a goal that has never changed," (ACIM:T-8.VI.9:7) the point of which is that we can make the "other choice" this instance, and experience the miracle or the holy instant. For the longest time it is like learning how to jump off a moving train, however then we regret it, for the feeling that we are missing the train takes over, and we jump right back on the next train. At some point it is bound to occur to us that we are better off of the ego's hamster wheel, which the Buddhists call Samsara. In the Course he also promises compound interest, for one miracle could save us "thousands of years." (ACIM:T-1.II.6:7) To the Newtonian side of the family that seems hard to fathom, but in the holographic model suggested by quantum mechanics this makes eminent sense, for we're not changing the world, we're changing our beliefs which imagine the world, so that we ultimately can see what the Course calls the Real World, so far hidden from view only by the clouds of our feverish dreams.

It is a fundamental tenet of the Course, that all is never lost, that there always remains that spark of sanity in our minds, our memory of Heaven, which can begin to grow from the moment we turn to it, and this child inside will lead us home if we welcome it within ourselves. The memory of our power to decide, which the ego tries to obliterate, has been preserved for us in myth and fairy tale throughout time, and A Course In Miracles gives us step by step instructions, in a way that is completely unprecedented. The story of the manger in Bethlehem of course is symbolic of the fact that the world has no place for him, since no one "in their right mind" would extend a welcome to someone who says his place does not exist. That is surely the real reason why there was no room at the inn. But by choosing the miracle, we do extend a home to him, as the Course describes in a hauntingly beautiful passage:

1. What danger can assail the wholly innocent? 2 What can attack the guiltless? 3 What fear can enter and disturb the peace of sinlessness? 4 What has been given you, even in its infancy, is in full communication with God and you. 5 In its tiny hands it holds, in perfect safety, every miracle you will perform, held out to you. 6 The miracle of life is ageless, born in time but nourished in eternity. 7 Behold this infant, to whom you gave a resting place by your forgiveness of your brother, and see in it the Will of God. 8 Here is the babe of Bethlehem reborn. 9 And everyone who gives him shelter will follow him, not to the cross, but to the resurrection and the life.

Copyright, © 2008 Rogier F. van Vlissingen. All rights reserved.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

"The Jesus of the Bible"

Someone recently pointed me to to some conversations on the forums at Oprah, in which there was a bit of confusion about "the Jesus of ACIM" versus "the Jesus of the Bible." I posted a response to try to shed some light on the issue, and from that again found my comments posted (with my consent) to other forums. Then some private correspondence ensued, and finally it became clear to me that it was time to pull some of these thoughts together and write about it in this venue, for confusion reigns.

Ultimately the confusion is about the Bible, not about Jesus. There is no Jesus of the Bible. How could there be, given the fact that at current count there are over 25,000 Christian denominations all of whom have sometimes wildly differing interpretations of the Bible, and of him. Yet they all agree that the Bible is their holy book, and for the most part treat the book as a whole, one Bible, one Jesus, one God, yet somehow all different. At times enough so for violence to erupt. Therefore "Jesus" in this context is a theological interpretation of a figure in this book, according to at least 25,000 different interpretations, though of course there are certain central tenets which all of these "Christian" denominations tend to have in common, solidified in the Nicene creed, in which the central tenet is that this person Jesus of whom the Bible reports, was the exclusive son of God, and is our saviour by means of vicarious salvation. Therefore this defines Christianity, not Jesus. It defines a group of views of Jesus.

But Nicea had its dissenters, just as much as when Bishop Athanasius defined the Canon of the New Testament for the first time as we know it today in 367 CE, a lot of books were excluded. Many of the books which thus became "extra-canonical" or "aprocryphal," were near and dear to the heart of many who held themselves to be Christians just as much as adherents of the "orthodox" faith which was consolidated as "the Church" did. "The Church" of course soon split into the Greek and Roman churches, and has not ceased splitting after that. Meanwhile various groups had spread all over the place, including Tomas's wanderings to Syria and India, and many others. So there was a staggering variety of "Christianity," which Bart Ehrman in his excellent book of that title calls "Lost Christianities," and just because we don't know much about them does not mean they did not exist, and their followers did not see themselves as Christians.

So "the Bible" to Christians is the so-called Old Testament and the New Testament, and to the hard core believers it is thought of as the revealed word of God, and in many cases they have specific preferences for translations, which most closely reflect their theological stance. Denominations have split themselves off over differences as small as the translation or interpretation of a single word. Yet there are still major variations for there are substantial groups which include the "apocryphal," or "deutero-canonical books of the Old Testament (Catholic, Greek and Oriental Orthodox, and some Protestant churches). They had been a part of the first Greek translation of the Old Testament, the Septuagint. So even "the Bible" is hardly a unified, or unifying concept. And since Nag Hammadi and the Dead Sea even Christians now have their own Apocrypha, and in particular the Thomas gospel, on the strength of dating it prior to Mark, and in fact as one of the source sayings traditions of the canonical books, is now being inducted into the notion of canon, by the Jesus Seminar (hence their book The Five Gospels), riding on growing numbers of people who still consider themselves church-going Christians, and sometimes have Thomas study-groups in church.

"The Jesus of the Bible" therefore hardly a clear concept either, except if you take it to refer to a broad definition, which, in formal terms, might read like this "the portrayal of Jesus as he is commonly seen in main stream Christianity, and defined by the council of Nicea, and thought to be reported on in the canonical books of the New Testament as defined by Bishop Athanasius in 367 CE." Now you have somewhat of a working hypothesis of who "the Jesus of the Bible" might be. In short, I find it more informative to simply speak of "the Christian interpretation of Jesus."
Simply put, there appears to have been some figure in Palestine, with the name of Yehoshua, (latinized as Jesus), and a certain (fairly large) group of people think he taught something that was summarized appropriately by the Council of Nicea, and reported on in a set of books, they chose to bundle with the Hebrew Tanakh and call it their Holy Bible, their sacred book. If you use the words "the Jesus of the Bible," and "the Jesus of ACIM," people land in these pointless discussions as if there were in fact two Jesuses. If you want to go that route, there are an unlimited number of Jesuses, for every individual to a degree experiences their relationship with him differently (or not at all, but that is also simply a different way of experiencing him).

And this is exactly the point of ACIM. To state it more explicitly in--and line with Course principles--our experience of him is different in form to the exact extent that we experience ourselves as different in this world. Or, in one of my favorite Ken Wapnick witticisms: "Jesus is a what, that looks like a who, because you think you are a who." Once you begin to understand how and why all the characters in the dream, including your own character, which you tend to mistake for who you are, are in fact projections from the mind, then the traditional difficulty with understanding the docetic tradtions (e.g the Acts of John where the apostles discuss their differing experiences of Jesus), and which were simply thrown out by the early church, are instantly resolved. Of course we would have different experiences of Jesus. Hence Helen Schucman, the scribe of the Course, at one point had a dream experience of Jesus, and wondered why he "looked like Bill," and in answer she heard: "Who else would I look like?" (Reported in Ken Wapnick's Absence from Felicity.) In short Jesus will show up in a form we can understand accept, since anything else would increase our level of fear. This is the gentle promise of the Course. Jesus treats us with kid gloves, because he fully understands we are spiritual children.

It should be equally clear that it is the consistency of the Love, present in all of these individual experiences which makes it clear that Jesus represents this Love and this oneness, hence the message "Teach only love, for that is what you are." (ACIM:T-6.III.2) In other words, we are that love, but we have forgotten it in the dreaming of the world, and so our memory of God's Love (aka. the Holy Spirit), shows up as a character in the dream, calling us to follow him home, and leading us out of the labyrinth of the dream. It is only by "following" him that we learn to leave the dream behind, and in Course terms this takes the form of forgiving the various characters and situations in our dream to where we ultimately realize that Jesus represents for us who we really are, namely God's son, and we are home again. The Course would say, we have woken up from the ego nightmare, for we are: "You are at home in God, dreaming of exile but perfectly capable of awakening to reality." (ACIM:T-10.I.2)

In short there really only is one Jesus, one son of God, "...and nowhere does the Father end, the Son begin as something separate from Him." (ACIM:W-132.12) Reality is one, and never, ever splintered or divided, as it seems in our dream of separation, which is expressed also in the Course's notion that going home is "a journey without distance to a goal that has never changed. " and "Truth can only be experienced." (ACIM:T-8.VI.9:7-8) And since time is an illusion, the only thing that ever matters is what we choose to have now, right this moment, Heaven or Hell. One Jesus, or many Jesuses.

Copyright, © 2008 Rogier F. van Vlissingen. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

On Popeye and the Channeling Bonanza

Years ago, when the topic of listening to the Holy Spirit, and "feeling guided" came up, I found myself joking with a group that my mother always was sure she was channeling the Holy Spirit when she told me to eat my spinach as a child. At which point I'm reminded of the following paragraph in the Course:

Trust not your good intentions. They are not enough. But trust implicitly your willingness, whatever else may enter. Concentrate only on this, and be not disturbed that shadows surround it. That is why you came. If you could come without them you would not need the holy instant. Come to it not in arrogance, assuming that you must achieve the state its coming brings with it. The miracle of the holy instant lies in your willingness to let it be what it is. And in your willingness for this lies also your acceptance of yourself as you were meant to be. (ACIM:T-18.IV.2)

We presently seem to have entered an era of channeling bonanza, where in some circles it is acceptable and "done" to publicly announce that you feel guided to do or say either a or b. The common sense response to which should be, "So?" Over the years, Ken Wapnick has discussed this issue many times, and he likes to common-sensically point out that we're always channeling something, i.e. either the ego or the Holy Spirit, which should be completely evident if we see the body as merely a vehicle, but not as who we are, and just like there are only two emotions, love or fear, so there are only two ways we can speak, from love or from fear.

If we were ever truly and wholly coming from love, there would be no need to be here, as the above paragraph says pretty clearly, so we are here to learn. If we come from love, the results should be completely self-evident, as the following paragraph suggests:

Every brother you meet becomes a witness for Christ or for the ego, depending on what you perceive in him. Everyone convinces you of what you want to perceive, and of the reality of the kingdom you have chosen for your vigilance. Everything you perceive is a witness to the thought system you want to be true. Every brother has the power to release you, if you choose to be free. You cannot accept false witness of him unless you have evoked false witnesses against him. If he speaks not of Christ to you, you spoke not of Christ to him. You hear but your own voice, and if Christ speaks through you, you will hear Him.

So if you are totally coming from love, then you will experience love, which will not need any elaboration, conversely, if it needs to be explained that something is coming from love, then it probably is not, at least not wholly. If nothing else to lay the burden on someone that you are telling them something which is "guided" amounts to really a subtle way of making the other person feel guilty, by implying that whatever they are saying may not be so guided, etc. So it is a way of intimidating the listener, of making them feel guilty, and therefore an ego-manipulation. My mother might have been coming from fear (about my health), or from complete love, and knowing that I would be OK whether I ate my spinach or not. We cannot know that, we need not know that, for that is between her and the Holy Spirit and moreover she is OK irrespective of any momentary delusions, which is the whole implication of the atonement principle. So there is no point to analyzing if someone else is being "guided" by the Holy Spirit or the ego, the point is I am here to learn my classrooms, and to find the way home.

Back to basics with the Course always means to begin with the central notion, stated at the outset, that our job here is to remove the obstacles to love's presence, which is our natural inheritance. (cf. ACIM:Introduction) In human interaction I am responsible for my actions, my words, etc. where I think they are coming from is purely superfluous information to everybody else. Moreover to put labels on it is the same mistake of level confusion, as why God does not hear a prayer in words, but only true prayer of the heart, and why the thoughts you think you think are not your real thoughts, as the Course points out in many ways (a.o. Lessons 15 and 45 in the Workbook). It is completely irrelevant if I think--in words--whether anything I say is either from the ego or from the Holy Spirit, for if I did not have to learn to tell the difference, I would not be here at all in the first place. Simply put, you will know the tree by its fruits, and our job is to learn to pick the right tree, accept the Atonement for ourselves.

Copyright, © 2008 Rogier F. van Vlissingen. All rights reserved.

Friday, February 15, 2008

It's Your Relationships, Stupid!!!

If for Bill Clinton it was "It's the economy, stupid!," then, for a student of the Course it is: "It's your relationships, stupid!" It almost sounds too simple, except for the fact that we resist simplicity at all costs, for the ego hides behind complexity, so as to maintains it power over us. It really is that simple.

The Course reminds us that "this is a very simple course" (T-11.VII.4:1), and other passages to that effect. The Thomas Gospel in several Logia speaks about what is right in front of our face, which evidently connect very well with the notion of projection that the Course teaches. Since we must project whatever we deny, what is in front of our face is an out-picturing of that which we deny or repress, and so we have another chance at forgiveness... or we could deny it again, if we so choose, until we start to realize that forgiveness might be the less painful option. Whatever we deny ends up back on the stage in front of our faces via the Holy Spirit's recycling program, to give us yet another opportunity to forgive.

We do not have to decamp to a hermit's cave in the Himalaya's, for from the Course's standpoint that would be a detour, we need to accept, wholeheartedly accept, that what is in front of our face is indeed the very best classroom we could ever have, for one compelling reason: it is our life, and instead of having the ego lead us into the labyrinth, we need to choose the Holy Spirit now to lead us out. The thread of Ariadne, Reason.

The beginning of healing is always right here and right now. Sometimes it just seems very hard to see, and it's good to realize this is because we are now looking at the stuff we heretofore did not want to see, and that is also the reason we need to look with Jesus or the Holy Spirit, unless we want to repeat the same outcome all over again. Hence learning to love our brothers like ourselves is really the outcome of the healing process that takes place in this forgiveness practice, for at that indivisible moment--the holy instant--when we suddenly see that we are accusing our brother of something we are doing ourselves, and that our brother is not merely like us, but is us, and reflects back to us our own twisted choice, which cannot be healed unless we first own making them. That moment of light the ego cannot endure, and therein lies the experience of healing.

It is at this point that we can see the true meaning of the Aristotelian concept of catharsis in drama, as the psychological cleansing that is supposed to be the payoff for the audience in tragedy. The point here is that all the actors in the drama represents fragments of the one mind, initially of the author, and then of the public that watches the play, so that in watching the play with true empathy, we should be enabled to see outside ourselves something we could not see within, but which tends to be a universal human issue, which we now get a chance to forgive, vicariously, so to speak, as long as we're willing to be vulnerable and recognize ourselves in it.

It is quite the same way with the characters in our own drama, they represent issues of our inner dynamic which we see outside, and no healing is possible before we accept responsibility for our experience. Likewise, every myth, legend, fairy tale, drama, has some element of offering another way of looking at this drama, and if we can only truly see ourselves in it, we have yet more forgiveness opportunities. For the healing is not in suffering through the whole episode ourselves, the healing is in the willingness to look at the ego with the Holy Spirit. His light dispels the choke hold in which the ego has us.
In the biblical story of Job we see, as he is caught up in his experiencing of the two sides of the ego's bi-polar God, which is the reflection of his own dualistic awareness, how it is first his wife and then his "friends" who represent merely the externalization, a projection of the ego's inner dialog, which is merely a defense against the experience, and the possible recognition, of the truth. In other words, Job's "wife" and "old friends," are clearly the special relationships, which are projections of the ego, which it uses to validate itself, and which will only serve to support our ego identity, and not who we are in truth. We all have a tendency to fall back on them, just when we are starting to tune in to that other voice, which is the Holy Spirit's.
In Job's story, only when Job stops listening to the "monkey mind," the thoughts we think we think, and comes to inner quiet, a fourth friend shows up and now he does he hear the Voice of Elihu (the name referring to God changes at that point in the story, and Elihu, as J. W. Kaiser points out means "This is my God"). Reflecting on this story can make us understand more deeply what the process of forgiveness really means, for it is only in the light of forgiveness that the ego "goes back into the nothingness from which it came," and there is room within us to hear the Voice for God.
In terms the Course uses, Job's "wife" and "friends" are also the ego's witnesses that we are right and Jesus is wrong--they are the ones we call upon to buy our sob story of how we are the victim of all the horrid people and circumstances in our lives, the ego's "dirge" as the Course says. Forgiveness in this light then means to gently ignore the voice of fear, and to hear the call for love, and to understand that all the useless well-meaning advice, admonitions, or even pressures are a reflection of our own fear, and forgiveness now offers us the other choice--right here, right now. In this healing we also transcend the dualistic experience of God, as the Good God, and the Devil, as our heart turns towards Elihu, "This is my God," through accepting this classroom as a forgiveness opportunity, and choosing the miracle.

One of my favorites which tends to come up in Course-related discussions is the situation of beginning students (as Ken Wapnick likes to point out, somewhere in the first 20-30 years of work with the Course), in respect of life partners who are not students, or worse yet are even dismissive of our new pastime. When this comes up I like to ask someone, "Why do you think you put a partner in your life who objects to your studying the Course?" Uh oh. And just in case... I am speaking from experience, it went like this (my ex-wife used to work in the library of a Jesuit university):
- "Oh, you're studying that book!"
- "What do you mean that book?"
- "Well, it's giving me a hernia, for it goes in and out of the library more often than any other book, and I have to put it back on the shelf all the time (this was when the Course was in 3 Volumes)."
As long as we can see that it is our own issue, then perhaps we can open the door to truly ask for help in seeing it differently, and things can shift...

I should point out that some of the present discussion was inspired by the work of J. W. Kaiser, a Dutch author on spirituality, whose work I'm translating into English. Particularly, his 1929 Monograph Introduction to the Study and Interpretation of Drama, Swets and Zeitlinger, Amsterdam 1929, and also his essay Beproeving (Eng. Temptation, in the book of Job), in the bundle De Mysterien of Jezus in ons Leven, Den Haag, Synthese, 1975 (Eng. The Mysteries of Jesus in our Lives). See also

Copyright, © 2008 Rogier F. van Vlissingen. All rights reserved.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Miracles Mishagass

That was Bill Thetford's expression for the insanity that seemed to start swirling around ACIM right from the beginning. Today it has become a complete industry. I do not know how to deal with it, other than just ignore it, or address it clearly whenever it comes up.

One of my favorite comments from Ken Wapnick concerns the issue of some students who think they want to find a therapist who practices the Course, to which he invariably says: "If you need a therapist, please just pick a good one, and don't pick him because he would be a Course student." And that sums it up quite nicely, for a simple reductio ad absurdum would lead you to the notion that you would need ACIM-certified doctors, car mechanics, plumbers, and cleaning ladies, to name but a few. Conversely you might just as well look for a therapist with red hair. You can't make those decisions by proxy, never mind what they are.

It all adds up to the same insane confusion of content and form which led the early Christians to set themselves aside and make the teachings of Jesus into a religion, instead of practicing what he said, and following him in content, in spirit. Whether on the weekend you watch football, or study ACIM has nothing to do with the price of beans.

In the current literary landscape I would think perhaps the enlightenment trilogy by Jed McKenna, published at The Wise Fool Press might be the best antidote against this particular form of insanity. If nothing else they make it very clear by implication that ACIM has nothing to do with it. If it happens to be your path, it is a means to an end, it may serve some people, not others, but in the end it has nothing to do with the price of beans. There are many paths, as the Course itself clearly reminds us of, not to mention it's profound message in Lesson 189, when it says: "Forget this world, forget this course, and come with wholly empty hands unto your God." (ACIM:W-189.7:5) In other words, you use the railing to climb to the top of the stairs, but once you are there, you don't take the railing with you. You let go of it, and you walk onto the particular floor of the building you are in.

The perfect corollary to this is when the Course says in its Preface: "It is not intended to become the basis for another cult. Its only purpose is to provide a way in which some people will be able to find their own Internal Teacher." and a bit further down it elaborates even more:
"The Course makes no claim to finality, nor are the Workbook lessons intended to bring the student's learning to completion. At the end, the reader is left in the hands of his or her own Internal Teacher, Who will direct all subsequent learning as He sees fit. While the Course is comprehensive in scope, truth cannot be limited to any finite form, as is clearly recognized in the statement at the end of the Workbook:
This Course is a beginning, not an end...No more specific lessons are assigned, for there is no more need of them. Henceforth, hear but the Voice for God...He will direct your efforts, telling you exactly what to do, how to direct your mind, and when to come to Him in silence, asking for His sure direction and His certain Word (Workbook, p. 487)."

That really sums it up, right at the outset. Meanwhile the world blithely ignores these messages, and probably as I'm writing this, someone is developing Course-branded ski jackets or some such, but we would do well to be mindful of the fact that the only real thing to do is to dedicate ourselves to the relationship with the one Internal Teacher. If anyone can help you with the Course, fine, but the minute you lose focus on that Internal Teacher, you become a follower of people, not a student of the Course.

Along similar lines I remember a workshop I organized with Nouk Sanchez & Tomas Vieira, around their book Take Me To Truth, on a break I heard a comment from the audience about finding a better partner to study ACIM with, which for all the same reasons is not the point, for it is not about the words. It is about the inner practice. Of course it can be very helpful at times if you have someone who you trust in their work with the Course, who may be able to give you some useful feedback when you hit a bump in the road, but you don't have to be married to, or live with, that person for it to work. It is never about the person. It could be a comment you overhear on the bus one day, which gives you just the clue you needed, for the Internal Teacher will use any available channel, and our responsibility is just the willingness to listen, and follow the Internal Teacher.

In my own life, I had to confront this issue in a different way, when the person who I had seen as my spiritual teacher for about 25 years died. I was angry with God then. And yet at some level I did realize that I was confusing content and form, and that another channel would show up. Four years later I found ACIM, and through a dream experience I knew without a doubt that here was my answer. And the beauty is that the book itself says of itself that it's only a book, it is there only to be a help for those who use it, but the truth is within, as the likes of Socrates and Jesus, and Buddha have been teaching since the beginning of time.

Copyright, © 2008 Rogier F. van Vlissingen. All rights reserved.