Sunday, October 23, 2011

A House is not a Home

Salvation is no more than a reminder this world is not your home. Its laws are not imposed on you, its values are not yours. And nothing that you think you see in it is really there at all. This is seen and understood as each one takes his part in its undoing, as he did in making it. He has the means for either, as he always did. The specialness he chose to hurt himself did God appoint to be the means for his salvation, from the very instant that the choice was made. His special sin was made his special grace. His special hate became his special love. (ACIM:T-25.VI.6)
The ego's game is substitution, and always level confusion, it offers us a specific something in lieu of content and meaning, always passing off something inferior (form) for the real thing (content/meaning). And once it conned us the first time, it then helps us focus all our energies into maintaining the substitute in lieu of the real thing, until it kills us, which it inevitably will. Our real home is in Heaven, and the ego is always very focused on providing us with something to call home in this world in its place. And the National Association of Realtors has been happy to lend a helping hand by appealing to human emotions - and murdering the English language in a way that would have done Goebbels proud - by insisting we are buying a home, when the only thing you can buy is a house, really. This type of stuff is just emblematic for the level of effort the ego makes to obfuscate truth and to pass off its substitutes for the real thing, and in the process it always limits us to one concrete manifestation of what it is we are looking for. As one of my favorite con-artists used to say: "Logic and reason are just the horse the emotions ride in on." The realtors have understood that one a long time ago.

In recent US domestic political and economic history the whole thing converged into a toxic brew, when with typical slight of hand, a confusion of cause and effect, home ownership was substituted for financial stability, and predictably created the opposite result, which is also emblematic for the ego - creating the very problem it pretends to solve. As Bill Clinton understood, it was also a way of getting votes; votes from the people he was feeding to the wolves, and campaign contributions from the wolves, and then whahappen...? The big print giveth and the small print taketh away: the ego always gives in order to take, and it is completely inimical to the laws of spirit, which say giving and receiving are the same. We are now blessed with shelves full of books on what caused the economic collapse of 2008, and of course they all miss the point as long as they do not get to this fundamental issue of substitution and level confusion. Once you get that, it is clear that it is the ego which is the disease, and like a cancer - the emperor of all maladies, as a recent book calls it - always ends up growing out of control until it kills us, which is its real purpose.

Thus this financial bubble, like other similar bubbles, and like physical cancers are just wild growths that are parasitical to the organism, and kill it. It is just part of the insanity of the system that self destructive activities like this are counted in the plus column as far as GNP is concerned, and Marx would relish the moment to reaffirm his astute observation that capitalism would gladly sell us the rope to hang ourselves, forgetting only that communism would do the same thing just as happily--just think of the arms race. For all of that, the answers only come once we become ready to admit that this world is not our home, never mind how well we decorate it. All these crises are the same, and the only question is when are we ready to seek where the answers are: always inside, never out. Charles Mackay' Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, is as relevant today as when it was first written, but we won't learn from it until we finally wake up to the fact that all this insanity is merely the logical result of one wrong decision we made - the choice for the tiny, mad idea of the separation - which moreover can be corrected. As long as we keep trying to fix the problem outside, we'll merely create the next crisis.

In short, there is nothing extraordinary about these popular delusions, and there is no wicked witch forcing us to get caught up in them, unless we go looking for the wicked witch, by once again choosing the ego over the Holy Spirit. And it invariably takes us for a ride. Thus the power of Maya, the power of the wicked witch, of the Wizard of Oz, collapses into naught if we choose not to get enchanted by it but rather look at it with forgiveness, and change our mind:
The secret of salvation is but this: that you are doing this unto yourself. No matter what the form of the attack, this still is true. Whoever takes the role of enemy and of attacker, still is this the truth. Whatever seems to be the cause of any pain and suffering you feel, this is still true. For you would not react at all to figures in a dream you knew that you were dreaming. Let them be as hateful and as vicious as they may, they could have no effect on you unless you failed to recognize it is your dream.
This single lesson learned will set you free from suffering, whatever form it takes. The Holy Spirit will repeat this one inclusive lesson of deliverance until it has been learned, regardless of the form of suffering that brings you pain. Whatever hurt you bring to Him He will make answer with this very simple truth. For this one answer takes away the cause of every form of sorrow and of pain. The form affects His answer not at all, for He would teach you but the single cause of all of them, no matter what their form. And you will understand that miracles reflect the simple statement, " I have done this thing, and it is this I would undo." 

Copyright, © 2011 Rogier F. van Vlissingen. All rights reserved.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Direction to Mount Olympus

How do you get to the top of Mount Olympus? Make sure your every step is directed that way.
How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice!

Or, the way Margot Krikhaar writes in her new book, Awakening in Love,  about doing the workbook lessons of the Course: "And remember that it is not about the tempo. It is about which way you are headed: in the direction of the light.

This all really boils down to the Course's concept of the "little willingness:"
Salvation, perfect and complete, asks but a little wish that what is true be true; a little willingness to overlook what is not there; a little sigh that speaks for Heaven as a preference to this world that death and desolation seem to rule. (ACIM:T-26.VII.10:1)  
So the change is that instead of being so wrongheaded all the time and giving our vote to the ego, we start giving our vote to the Holy Spirit, and on top of that to realize that when we get ourselves all wrong footed, we can start over at any time. The Course is full of examples of Jesus' infinite patience with us - he evidently understands the ego's resistance quite well.

Margot in her book shares with us all her own stumbles and challenges and at times it could be quite tough to imagine that anything good is going to come of all this, just like in our own life we can at times completely lose it in the process. The eventual outcome however makes it very clear that it is exactly right that all we need is a 'little' willingness, just enough to keep being pointed in the right direction. The willingness to leave decisions to the Holy Spirit, instead of arrogating on behalf for an illusory ego-self. What makes Margot's book so powerful is that she shares her process with all of this in a way that is totally disarming, and an invitation to look at ourselves honestly, and to stop covering things up, but instead to start looking at them honestly all the time, with Jesus' love to guide us, till one day we move past the ego. That is what the Course calls accepting the Atonement, and the best guidance on the process is like the old Greek saying that you get to the top of Mount Olympus by simply making sure that your every step is in that direction. All you ever have to worry about is the step you are doing right now. The same again is implied in the notion of Occam's Razor. Do not fall for the ego's complexity.

In the words of Lesson 188:
Why wait for Heaven? 2 Those who seek the light are merely covering their eyes. 3 The light is in them now. 4 Enlightenment is but a recognition, not a change at all. 5 Light is not of the world, yet you who bear the light in you are alien here as well. 6 The light came with you from your native home, and stayed with you because it is your own. 7 It is the only thing you bring with you from Him Who is your Source. 8 It shines in you because it lights your home, and leads you back to where it came from and you are at home. (ACIM:W.pI.188.1)
Copyright, © 2011 Rogier F. van Vlissingen. All rights reserved.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Ego's Juggling Act

In the first chapter of part II of her book Awakening in Love, Margot Krikhaar speaks of learning to distinguish the Holy Spirit's Voice from that of the ego, and she devotes some attention to the deceptive similarities the ego can sometimes produce. Like everything she writes, her way of saying things is very incisive, simple and straightforward, and will no doubt be helpful to many of her readers. About our resistance to listening to the Voice of the Holy Spirit she writes: "In learning to listen to guidance, the biggest problem is not how to do it. The biggest problem is if you really want guidance." And that just about sums it all up.

The ego is a juggling act, and like a magician it permanently keeps our attention wrapped up in perceptions which actually veil the problem, and keep us engaged in solving problems of the ego's making, in order to divert us from ever examining the one fundamental premise on which the ego is based:  the thought of separation. It is the Course's path of forgiveness that allows us incrementally to return to the one place where we can make a change, which is in our mind. And the only choice we really can make is the choice to listen to the Holy Spirit more and more as we learn to see through the falsehoods of the ego. Until we accept the Atonement for ourselves, which is our only real job as students of the Course.

As long as our attention is riveted on fixing problems of the ego's making, its reign is unchallenged, so it is always afraid of us listening inside, and paying attention to anything other than the show it is putting on. One of the reasonable guises of the ego is why try anything different - it's always been done this way. That is the logic of the Samaritan woman at the well, Jacob's well - we drank this water forever and a day, including our forefathers as long as anyone can remember. Against that 'impressive' tradition, there is the choice of the water that would not make us thirst again. We have to become like the Samaritan woman, realizing that none of our special relationships that bind us to the world are worth anything. That is what looking at the ego means, daring to recognize that it has nothing to offer. We can only do that with Jesus' help beside us, and by the same token he offers us the water that will not make us thirst again. The choice will become inevitable eventually, as we realize more and more that the emperor has no clothes on.

Ken Wapnick in one of my favorite descriptions calls the ego's operating routine a 'maladaptive solution to a nonexistent problem' and the upshot is that if we let go of the ego, we will merely wake up to our true selves, and it's a lot less tiring than keeping up the high energy charade which is the false self. The end of our identification with the ego, is not the end of us, as the ego would have us believe, but the end of its rule over us and the beginning of freedom.

Copyright, © 2011 Rogier F. van Vlissingen. All rights reserved.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Caterpillar and the Buttefly; Awakening in Love

Wer nicht stirbt eh' er stirbt, der verdirbt wenn er stirbt. It was Angelus Silezius who said that, as I just found out courtesy of Annelies Ekeler. I had thought it was Jakob Boehme who said that, and if not he, that it was Meister Eckhart. Both were German mystics, but it so turned out it was Angelus Silezius, and he was born in 1624, which was also the year that Jakob Boehme died. Lao Tze said: What the caterpillar calls the end, the rest of the world calls a butterfly.

What the Angelus Silesius saying means is that whoever does not die before he dies, perishes when he dies. The reason is simple enough, if our consciousness is still stuck in identification with the body, we think we perish when the body dies, but if we have woken up to the universal awareness which the Course calls Salvation, or accepting the Atonement, and which tradition calls Enlightenment, or Awakening, we have already overcome the fear of dying, and moreover will be clear we are not our body. Conversely, the process of awakening is often experienced as a death experience at first, because we die as who we (thought we) were, to wake up as who we are in truth. In that transition what dies is our identification with the body. The awakening means that we remember who we are in truth.

The Course addresses this issue of identifying with the body, with the crucifixion, in many ways, including here:
Learn, then, the happy habit of response to all temptation to perceive yourself as weak and miserable with these words:  
2 I am as God created me. 3 His Son can suffer nothing. 4 And I am His Son. (ACIM:T-31.VIII.5)
and  it makes clear the temptation really is the temptation of seeing our brothers, and therefore ourselves, as bodies, as individuals, separate and independent from God, as very perishable bodies, which denies that who we really are in truth is God's Son, one with him. In the New Testament account this is powerfully expressed in the baptism scene in the River Jordan, under John the Baptist, where Jesus sees the Heavens part, and hears the voice for God saying that he is "My Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." The Course will say that we remember in that moment of accepting the Atonement, that nothing really happened, that there was no separation. It is the moment of remembering of who we are in truth. And anyone who practices the Course has that recognition somewhere along the line, and while we may yet forget it plenty of times, there is no way back any longer, for it is no longer quite as deniable as it seemed to be before we consciously had such experience. And eventually the time comes to accept it once and for all.

Margot Krikhaar delivers a powerful description of this experience in her book, and in fact several times had the sense that it was like dying, but only in looking back could she now be of help to the next person by sharing her experiences. For while nobody can do it for you, as the experiences are completely unique to an individual, still we can be of help to one another once we live the butterfly, testifying to caterpillars of life after the chrysalis stage. So while we live like caterpillars, in our individual consciousness, all that seems ever so far fetched, but then we may be lucky enough to see a few glimpses along the way. Practicing forgiveness steadily is likely conducive to some moments of clarity, which then give us the strength to go on forgiving as we plow through the seemingly endless mess of the ego's Augias stables. In the end, the awakening then is the return to what was and is and always will be the truth of who we are:

1. Why wait for Heaven? 2 Those who seek the light are merely covering their eyes. 3 The light is in them now. 4 Enlightenment is but a recognition, not a change at all. 5 Light is not of the world, yet you who bear the light in you are alien here as well. 6 The light came with you from your native home, and stayed with you because it is your own. 7 It is the only thing you bring with you from Him Who is your Source. 8 It shines in you because it lights your home, and leads you back to where it came from and you are at home. (ACIM:W.pI.188.1)
Copyright, © 2011 Rogier F. van Vlissingen. All rights reserved.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

The Christ of St John of the Cross

Towards the end of the third Chapter of Margot Krikhaar's Awakening in Love -  at what she points out is the end of her story - she describes very vividly what it is like to truly be looking at the ego's foibles with Jesus from above the battlefield, after one has truly accepted the atonement for oneself. She notes how she might still see her own typical ego reactions, but now purely as an observer, as the identification with it is dissolved one and for all. As long as the ego, our individual existence, informs our thinking, every ounce of strength of our thought system remains dedicated to hiding from sight the one insane premise on which that thought system rests, namely the notion that the body (i.e. our individual existence) does exist. The shift in vantage point once we accept the atonement is thus very graphic.

We may be reminded of the early chapters of the Course, where Jesus also points out that the world has misinterpreted the crucifixion, and he puts it down as merely the last useless journey, which we should not take seriously, but merely as the necessary preamble to what comes next - the resurrection. It should be of no more lasting significance than putting out the trash - cleaning up after yourself after you are done with the ego.
3. The journey to the cross should be the last "useless journey." 2 Do not dwell upon it, but dismiss it as accomplished. 3 If you can accept it as your own last useless journey, you are also free to join my resurrection. 4 Until you do so your life is indeed wasted. 5 It merely re-enacts the separation, the loss of power, the futile attempts of the ego at reparation, and finally the crucifixion of the body, or death. 6 Such repetitions are endless until they are voluntarily given up. 7 Do not make the pathetic error of "clinging to the old rugged cross." 8 The only message of the crucifixion is that you can overcome the cross. 9 Until then you are free to crucify yourself as often as you choose. 10 This is not the gospel I intended to offer you. 11 We have another journey to undertake, and if you will read these lessons carefully they will help prepare you to undertake it. (
Salvador Dali's painting of The Christ of St. John of the Cross may have some interesting parallels here. The painting is based on an original drawing of St. John of the Cross, where we look down on the crucifixion scene - almost suggestive of seeing it disappear in the rear view mirror - and Dali reports he himself had an inspiration that he should paint it without the nails as that would distract from the painting. In short, both the original drawing by St. John of the Cross, who very clearly had accepted the atonement for himself, and must have had some intimations of what it meant to look on the crucifixion from above the battleground, and Dali's rendering seem to increasingly reflect looking back on the crucifixion, from beyond, where any suffering has become moot. No wonder the painting was assaulted by a religious fanatic for apparently that exact reason, as the suffering on the Cross is a central tenet in the sacrificial theology of Christianity.

This painting maybe strangely reminiscent of Jesus' emphasis in the Course that he did not suffer on the cross, because he knew he was not his body, so that the world may have thought it was attacking him by attacking his body, he did not have the same interpretation, and thus did not share in the attack, did not feel attacked. Readers of Ken Wapnick's biography of Helen Schucman, Absence from Felicity may recall the passage on pages 411-12, where Helen saw Michelangelo's Pietà and heard Mary say in her mind 'this means nothing,' reflecting the same awareness. The intensity of that experience is even more poignant if you realize Helen's very strong relationship to the figure of Mary throughout her life.

It may be helpful to reflect once more on the pertinent passages in Chapter 6 of the Course, in the section The Meaning of the Crucifixion:
2. The crucifixion is nothing more than an extreme example. 2 Its value, like the value of any teaching device, lies solely in the kind of learning it facilitates. 3 It can be, and has been, misunderstood. 4 This is only because the fearful are apt to perceive fearfully. 5 I have already told you that you can always call on me to share my decision, and thus make it stronger. 6 I have also told you that the crucifixion was the last useless journey the Sonship need take, and that it represents release from fear to anyone who understands it. 7 While I emphasized only the resurrection before, the purpose of the crucifixion and how it actually led to the resurrection was not clarified then. 8 Nevertheless, it has a definite contribution to make to your own life, and if you will consider it without fear, it will help you understand your own role as a teacher.
T-6.I.3. You have probably reacted for years as if you were being crucified. 2 This is a marked tendency of the separated, who always refuse to consider what they have done to themselves. 3 Projection means anger, anger fosters assault, and assault promotes fear. 4 The real meaning of the crucifixion lies in the apparent intensity of the assault of some of the Sons of God upon another. 5 This, of course, is impossible, and must be fully understood as impossible. 6 Otherwise, I cannot serve as a model for learning.
T-6.I.4. Assault can ultimately be made only on the body. 2 There is little doubt that one body can assault another, and can even destroy it. 3 Yet if destruction itself is impossible, anything that is destructible cannot be real. 4 Its destruction, therefore, does not justify anger. 5 To the extent to which you believe that it does, you are accepting false premises and teaching them to others. 6 The message the crucifixion was intended to teach was that it is not necessary to perceive any form of assault in persecution, because you cannot be persecuted. 7 If you respond with anger, you must be equating yourself with the destructible, and are therefore regarding yourself insanely. (ACIM:T-6.I.2-4)

Copyright, © 2011 Rogier F. van Vlissingen. All rights reserved.

Awakening in Love, The Dark Night of the Soul

Most of us don't really know what to make of the famous classic The Dark Night of the Soul of St. John of the Cross, and the world got all upset when Mother Theresa's diaries were published, full of material that clearly reflected episodes of her dark night of the soul, and evidently should have never been published. Margot Krikhaar, in her book Awakening in Love, shares much of her inner process with the reader, which is a profound invitation to encourage us to engage in the process, and her sharing of her dark episodes can be helpful exactly because they are written from the standpoint of the eventual inner clarity she arrived at. At that point she could see how everything in her life had been helpful for her to get to the point of what the Course calls accepting the atonement, aka awakening, or enlightenment - when we no longer identify with the ego, but see with Shakespeare in total clarity that all the world's a stage, and join with our brothers in finding the way back home, as forgiveness becomes the single purpose of everything in life.

Jed McKenna in his Enlightenment books (see, and ) discusses the process that he calls autolysis as a way of getting our ego struggles and resistance on paper, noticing how our thought processes are a perfect way of hiding the answers, because we spend most of our lives running around in circles without ever facing the fact how absurdly illogical our thinking really is. One of his funnier comments is that your head is no place to keep your thoughts, and his point is clearly that the illogic only becomes visible when you try to commit the insanity to paper. The process of writing stuff down in a diary, if it is practiced with persistence and perseverance and the determination not to stop before we get to the truth, will eventually bring us to what Jiddu Krishnamurti calls 'the end of thought.'

This writing process, particularly if we practice it in the style the Course would suggest, namely with the love of Jesus beside us, can often also produce the answers we need - they are what remains when the insanity is finally seen for what it is without recrimination. The whole point of the Course's forgiveness process is that looking with our ego would only make us more self-critical and judgmental in the extreme: how could I be so stupid... etc. The presence of Jesus, who represents the love and forgiveness of the Holy Spirit, (and he's not particular, it could be Quan Yin, Lao Tse, Krishna, Theresa of Avila, Rebbetzin Chaya Sara Kramer, or whoever that fills that role for you), means that you can forgive the issues that come up and ask for help in looking at it with the vision of the Holy Spirit, and from that the answers come through. In the OT this is symbolized in the story of Job, who first is listening to his old (=ego) friends, but then becomes quiet and starts listening to the Voice for God.

This inner process of cleaning out the Augias stables, is messy, and it is also very individual. Only at a very high level of abstraction - in the eyes of the Holy Spirit - does it become simple, because ontologically the issues are always the same in one form or another. When you're in these episodes they are never clear, and very threatening at times. In that way St. John of the Cross was helpful in writing about it in retrospect, from the calm that resulted from his process in the end, likewise Margot Krikhaar writes in a way that invites us in and constantly helps us to look at our own process, which may be ever so different in form, but is always the same in the end. And in the end, clarity always results, once we really forgive, instead of yet again muddling through with our own judgment.

1. The real world is the state of mind in which the only purpose of the world is seen to be forgiveness. 2 Fear is not its goal, for the escape from guilt becomes its aim. 3 The value of forgiveness is perceived and takes the place of idols, which are sought no longer, for their "gifts" are not held dear. 4 No rules are idly set, and no demands are made of anyone or anything to twist and fit into the dream of fear. 5 Instead, there is a wish to understand all things created as they really are. 6 And it is recognized that all things must be first forgiven, and then understood. (ACIM:T-30.V.1)

What is so powerful in the process of the Course is that the path of forgiveness leads us through the mess with the growing awareness of Jesus' presence, in part in the words of the Course itself, but then increasingly also in our inner experience. His is a voice that we knew before, and always recognize, but for most of our lives we repress that voice out of awareness, as long as we are in the service of the false rulers, be they Pharao, or uncle Laban, and all of the figures that fill those roles in our lives. Hence the Course says that the ego always speaks first and is always wrong, just like Job's old friends were always wrong.

1. Remember that the Holy Spirit is the Answer, not the question. 2 The ego always speaks first. 3 It is capricious and does not mean its maker well. 4 It believes, and correctly, that its maker may withdraw his support from it at any moment. 5 If it meant you well it would be glad, as the Holy Spirit will be glad when He has brought you home and you no longer need His guidance. 6 The ego does not regard itself as part of you. 7 Herein lies its primary error, the foundation of its whole thought system. (ACIM:T-6.IV.1)
In retrospect we can see how everything in our growing up, even the children's games we played are pure ego training, like hide and seek - it merely models the ego's lessons of hiding from God, modeled in the old testament as Adam hiding from God in the bushes, because he is ashamed. Thus the un-learning of the forgiveness process, which helps us un-doing the ego, is like retracing our steps to the original point of choice. The same thing happens in the autolysis process, as the light of the Holy Spirit simply dissolves the ego, which one way or another cannot stand the light, and only keeps its power over us by our not looking. There is however another way, and Awakening in Love is a powerful demonstration of it, and an inspiration for every Course student to commit to seeing it through. The Course is the invitation to make the other choice, simply because we get sick and tired of being sick and tired with the ego system. Margot Krikhaar's book is a helpful demonstration of what it looks like to make the other choice in very practical day to day terms, she is the girl next door, who picked up the Course and followed it all the way to the end, to end up living the solution, not the problem.
1. Temptation has one lesson it would teach, in all its forms, wherever it occurs. 2 It would persuade the holy Son of God he is a body, born in what must die, unable to escape its frailty, and bound by what it orders him to feel. 3 It sets the limits on what he can do; its power is the only strength he has; his grasp cannot exceed its tiny reach. 4 Would you be this, if Christ appeared to you in all His glory, asking you but this: 
5 Choose once again if you would take your place among the saviors of the world, or would remain in hell, and hold your brothers there.
6 For He has come, and He is asking this. (ACIM:T-31.VIII.1)
In reflecting on the Western tradition I grew up in (though other cultures are not too different), it is worth reflecting on the strange way we've dealt with the matter of spiritual awakening. The process of declaring people saints, and treating them more or less as as a sort of oddities is almost off-putting, alienating. But the Course speaks right from the outset about 'love's presence' as our 'natural inheritance,' moreover throughout the book it makes it clear that 'the outcome is as certain as God.' Jed McKenna also speaks of 'human adulthood' as an inevitable development, and refers to the state society accepts as 'adulthood' as a case of arrested development. Jesus in the Course refers to the what the world calls adulthood as spiritual childhood.
The Course also is clearly pitched at spiritual toddlers, who are only just starting out. It may be worth reflecting that besides the few who were acknowledged as 'official saints,' there have been any number of enlightened people who were never known by anyone, traditionally this is reflected among other things in the Chassidic teaching of the thrity-six zaddikim who no one knows who they are. For all you know, the cleaning lady, or a shoe-shiner may be an enlightened person. For really, what is left to talk about - unless like Margot, you are called to teach in the formal sense. And so, since truth is one, and is the only thing that really is, there is no other option but ending up there. Margot's book as a testimony of one person's journey is a very powerful help for anyone who becomes conscious of the call in their own life.

Copyright, © 2011 Rogier F. van Vlissingen. All rights reserved.