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 www.openfieldbooks.com

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