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.
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