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.