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. (ACIM:T-4.in.3)
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.
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