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.