Saturday, October 23, 2010

Abrahamic Religion at the Library

Since this blog was started in an explicit acknowledgement of the significance of the publication of A Course in Miracles in the context of the Abrahamic religions, I just wanted to highlight an important exhibit at the New York Public Library, that is currently in progress. The exhibition on the Three Faiths of the Abrahmic tradition promises to be eminently worthwhile.

It is helpful to see these three religions, which have so often been in conflict, as coming from one historical source and expressing one underlying tradition. This is even more the case, when we realize from the Course standpoint how much monotheistic religion has held itself out to be superior to other faith, but is itself understandable only as a defense against the non-dualistic reality of any true spirituality. The point is that the whole Abrahamic religious tradition makes the world very real by projecting a creator God, which is an obvious psychological ploy to reinforce the reality of the manifest universe of time and space, but blame someone else, in this case God. This God is now a god who needs to be placated, for he knows our sin, which is what the religious framework is all about. Abraham himself meanwhile is the very symbol of man living in the separation, which ultimately finds expression in the diaspora.

We see this process of perverting spirituality in the service of the world (Caesar) in the extreme with the appearance of Jesus, and how his teachings, which evidently were completely non-dualistic - as we can now once again understand because of the Thomas Gospel - were adulterated and compromised into the framework of this monotheistic religious tradition, cleverly obliterating non-dualistic thought under the pseudo-truth of monotheistic belief, and reconstructing the teachings of Jesus accordingly. That was the real contribution of Paul as the framer of the religion we now know as Christianity. In the process, the lightness of the forgiveness of sins which was the essence of Jesus' teachings was lost (again).

Formal religion is thus simply a reaction formation against spirituality, which is very threatening to the ego, which must at all cost maintain a faith in the reality of this very dualistic world of time and space. In other words ego has a big investment in sin, and the religions serve to reinforce that belief and rationalize it. Religions have historically served very effectively as the smokescreens behind which the creation of the world is made real by being legitimized as the work of God, never acknowledging that this creator-God is made up by the ego as a substitute for the abstract notion of God as our source in the spiritual sense. Even the gnostics however already suspected that the creator God of Genesis could not be the true God, but this insight has never before been so clearly expressed and elaborated, not to mention made practical and actionable, as it is today in A Course in Miracles.

Formal religion has no place in psychotherapy, but it also has no real place in religion. 2 In this world, there is an astonishing tendency to join contradictory words into one term without perceiving the contradiction at all. 3 The attempt to formalize religion is so obviously an ego attempt to reconcile the irreconcilable that it hardly requires elaboration here. 4 Religion is experience; psychotherapy is experience. 5 At the highest levels they become one. 6 Neither is truth itself, but both can lead to truth. 7 What can be necessary to find truth, which remains perfectly obvious, but to remove the seeming obstacles to true awareness? (ACIM:P-2.II.2) 
In this quote psychotherapy is the model for the process of healing which is the substance of recovery from the insane belief in the manifest world of time and space as somehow a foundation of reality.

Once we do begin to fathom the underlying spiritual framework, which is the truth that is our true inheritance, we may come to appreciate that even in the religious literature which has mostly served to attest to the reality of the world, and the importance of the ego - as reflected in all the pomp and circumstance, and idolization of the religions - also often contains the grains of truth that remain in our minds despite our best attempts to suppress it and explain it away.

The fundamental choice we are being taught to make in the Course, is the choice for the 2nd place, i.e. to re-discover our reality as God's son, in lieu of playing God ourselves by granting primacy to the manifest realities which the ego made. In other words "I choose the second place to gain the first,"  means I'm stopping to play God, by accepting who I am as God created me, in lieu of substituting a self-image and a world which I made, and where I play God in opposition to the Will of God. The enabling thought underneath, the thought of separation from God, is what makes this delusional system possible, and drives it on with the energy of guilt. Conversely the idea of forgiveness, so central to the teachings of Jesus, is threatening to the ego because it invalidates the manifest world of time and space as anything of reality, but exposes it as only derivative phenomenon, based on making the sin of separation very real. The lightness of that forgiveness is symbolized in Abraham's story in the serendipetous appearance of the Ram which becomes the willing substitute for what we thought was going to be a sacrifice, but which becomes a mere giving up of our self-will in the separation and the cause of our suffering in the first place. The projected sacrifice we imagined becomes the mere letting go our self-will instead. Not my will, but Thy Will be done.

Since the separation, the words "create" and "make" have become confused. 2 When you make something, you do so out of a specific sense of lack or need. 3 Anything made for a specific purpose has no true generalizability. 4 When you make something to fill a perceived lack, you are tacitly implying that you believe in separation. 5 The ego has invented many ingenious thought systems for this purpose. 6 None of them is creative. 7 Inventiveness is wasted effort even in its most ingenious form. 8 The highly specific nature of invention is not worthy of the abstract creativity of God's creations. (ACIM:T-3.V.2)
The story of Abraham's sacrifice in Genesis is a wonderful reminder of the way out of hell for us. For rather than being an illustration that repels us if it is taken literally, we might come to appreciate it as a reminder of the way home. It is the " little willingness,"  to be wrong and happy rather than self-righteous and miserable - the Course asks: "Do you prefer that you be right or happy?" (ACIM:T-29.VII.1:9) And so it is not the literal sacrifice of Abraham's literal son which is the point of this story - we should be mindful that "to those outside all comes in parables," as we are frequently reminded in the New Testament quotes of Jesus. So as long as we believe we are in this world of duality, we still need to learn to understand the parables in order to unlearn our substitution of truth by means of a manifest reality, which has no reality at all, as even quantum mechanics is graphically showing us today.

The point of Abraham's sacrifice is the willingness to let go of our ego's definition of tomorrow (our " son"), and once we demonstrate that willingness, it turns not to be a sacrifice, which our ego would believe it is, but a willing surrender of our stubborn self-will, in the form of the "Ram" which symbolizes the beginning of life in the manifest (substitute) reality of the world of time and space, as does the astrological sign of the same name in the symbolism of the zodiac. Thus, in lieu of the self-of-tomorrow (son), which we made as a substitute for reality, we are again accepting our reality as God's son, in the sense of  "I am as God created me." (ACIM:W-110). This is the path of relinquishing the ego's self-justification of its lies and its substitute reality, which is born from strife (separation), and begets us a life in hell, until we willingly release it, once we see the true cost of maintaining the idols which would displace God from our minds.

Thus the key to all spirituality is present in one of the foundational myths of the Abrahamic religious tradition, but as always it is taken literally and often explained away in embarrassment, all of which are ways of not looking at what the story really means; part and parcel of the process of metamorphosing the deepest truths of human spirituality into the contentious fodder of organized, formal religion, which always loses itself in its own literalness and fundamentalism, and thus inevitably splits itself into more and more splintered schools of thought, and thus seems to obliterates truth from our mind, until we have to admit it is not working for us any longer, and the time for a spiritual awakening is at hand.

Copyright, © 2010 Rogier F. van Vlissingen. All rights reserved.