Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Baptism in the River Jordan

In the second book of Jed McKenna's enlightenment trilogy, Spiritually Incorrect Enlightenment, the author visits a study group on the Bhagavadgita, and ends up making the point that studying the story is pointless unless and until you realize the story is about you, i.e. the reader. That's the only reason why it's relevant.
The same could be said for the Gospel, as in fact J.W.Kaiser, whose work I hope to translate completely into English, says in his 1950 translation and commentary of the Gospel according to Mark. He fully and completely proceeds from the viewpoint that the story that is being portrayed is nothing else but the pictorial expression accompanying the inner experiences of one who follows Jesus. In other words, the only way to read the story is to realize it is about you.

And the teaching never varies, though the imagery varies according to time and place, be it Krishna and Arjuna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra, Jesus in Galilee, Socrates in the allegory of the cave, or many other 'stories' that tell us of the way through the narrow gate. Today, we have A Course in Miracles, which expresses Jesus' teachings in language for the twenty-first century. It is framed in very psychologically profound language, and deals in the same terms, that the outside world is nothing but the out-picturing of an inner condition. "Projection makes perception" is what the Course says. And in the traditional Jesus literature it is the notion that to everyone 'outside the Kingdom' it all comes in parables.

Projection makes perception. The world you see is what you gave it, nothing more than that. But though it is no more than that, it is not less. Therefore, to you it is important. It is the witness to your state of mind, the outside picture of an inward condition. As a man thinketh, so does he perceive. Therefore, seek not to change the world, but choose to change your mind about the world. Perception is a result and not a cause. And that is why order of difficulty in miracles is meaningless. Everything looked upon with vision is healed and holy. Nothing perceived without it means anything. And where there is no meaning, there is chaos. (

The reversal, the turning point, is born only from surrendering the ego's point of view completely, and the Course is geared to making our path lighter by offering the incremental approach of forgiveness and the miracle, which puts us on the path towards accepting the atonement. The transition never seems that easy in practice, for the ego is heavily defended against allowing us to look at its mechanics, since it knows they can't stand the light of day, and we are fanatically convinced that our life depends on clinging to the ego, and therein lies the 'dark night of the soul.' The guarantee that we'll get through it lies in the fact that we've already made the choice by that time, but what resists is the ego, which cannot go with us on that journey, and keeps trying to convince us it will be the end of us. Therefore the process is not so much the killing of the ego as some traditions would have it; it merely becomes moot, literally, because it just does not make any sense.

In the Course, the first stage is the 'little willingness' which is the beginning of doubting the ego, and realizing it's not what it's cracked up to be - the arbiter of all reality. It is only the arbiter of its 'reality,' and beholden only to its perceived self-interest, which is an inferior substitute for the reality of what we really are. In fact the Course makes clear that as long as we offer our little willingness to the Holy Spirit, we will not go this journey alone:
Never approach the holy instant after you have tried to remove all fear and hatred from your mind. That is its function. Never attempt to overlook your guilt before you ask the Holy Spirit's help. That is His function. Your part is only to offer Him a little willingness to let Him remove all fear and hatred, and to be forgiven. On your little faith, joined with His understanding, He will build your part in the Atonement and make sure that you fulfill it easily. And with Him, you will build a ladder planted in the solid rock of faith, and rising even to Heaven. Nor will you use it to ascend to Heaven alone. (ACIM:T-18.V.3)

In the New Testament there is the story of the baptism in the River Jordan, under John, whose Hebrew name, Yehochanan, means 'God gives blessings', or 'God gives graciously', and he is the symbol of what the Course calls the 'happy learner' and Jed McKenna describes as human adulthood - living in the growing awareness that everything we encounter is in fact a blessed learning opportunity on our way back home, and is always our very best learning opportunity by definition. In the acceptance thereof we've already let the ego go, for it would have us believe that it first has to judge everything that comes on our path in terms of benefits or detriment to our ego individuality. In our darkest hour it is good to remember, that all the mountains of seeming fear are nothing but the projections of the ego's resistance: we certainly can be stubborn.
It is this that makes the holy instant so easy and so natural. You make it difficult, because you insist there must be more that you need do. You find it difficult to accept the idea that you need give so little, to receive so much. And it is very hard for you to realize it is not personally insulting that your contribution and the Holy Spirit's are so extremely disproportionate. You are still convinced that your understanding is a powerful contribution to the truth, and makes it what it is. Yet we have emphasized that you need understand nothing. Salvation is easy just because it asks nothing you cannot give right now. (ACIM:T-18.IV.7)
Eventually the path leads through the deepest pit of the ego, and becomes the full fledged baptism in the events of our life -- the 'River Jordan' -- to the point of suffocation, because the ego cannot go along on that journey in any way shape or form. It means letting go completely, in spite of all the seeming terror of the ego's deepest pit. In Margot Krikhaar's book Awakening in Love, she shares her process with the descent into the ego's pit in very simple and straightforward language in Chapter 7 of the second part of the book, titled "Learning to look at what never was allowed to be seen." She documents also her experience that we do not go through this alone.

What is choked off is the ego identity, and what is reborn is the recognition that 'thou art My Son, in whom I am well pleased'. Or, in the words of the Course, we will finally wake up fully to the knowledge that we are still 'as God created us', and there will no longer be a way back to the ego, for it was nothing but an illusion of separate individuality, and never the truth. In Jed McKenna's analysis of Herman Melville's Moby Dick, it is Ishmael, the observer self, which wakes up from this descent into hell, or in this case the shipwreck, to realize 'nothing happened.' Therefore also the question people have at times: "What guarantees that we won't make the same mistake all over again?" is moot. The answer of the Atonement is: "What mistake?"

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

Keeping It Real

Mundus vult decipi, decipiatur ergo. An old Latin saying that always fascinated me. The world wants to be fooled, and therefore she will be.

How many times already have you changed your vote, and wondered afterwards if it made any difference? Democrat, republican, or whatever may be the case wherever you happen to be in the world... One way or another the ego has us tied up in knots with choices which are no choices, with alternatives which are no alternative. The only meaningful choice is forgiveness.

Again and again the ego still manages to get us all wrapped around the axle, for then it makes forgiveness out to be a special thing, that you reserve for special people, or special days. We forgive on Sundays in church, or on alternate Tuesdays, and we feel very special when we're especially forgiving. But that's not forgiveness, that is always what the Course calls forgiveness to destroy, because it implies condemnation, it entails making the error real first, and then magnanimously 'forgiving' it. So what then is forgiveness? Forgiveness is being honest about the ego's tomfoolery, understanding that the ego, i.e. 'the world' WANTS to be fooled, because that keeps the ego in business. The ego's choices are an implied vote for the ego, cloaked by an apparent choice among illusory alternatives, which always are two sides of the same coin, and that coin always has the ego' bust on it - Caesar, a President, etc. The choices the ego has to offer keep us 'safely' rooted in the world. This is Maya, this is the evil witch of many a fairy tale.

This is also why the news about abuse, frauds and deceit, about copyright violations, theft and so on is so non-stop, because as long as we can see the deceit in others we don't have to face it ourselves. But then... with the ego we will merely judge ourselves. The other choice, the only other choice is to turn to Jesus, and to learn to look at the situation with his forgiving eyes, which means to let go of all of our judgments and asking him to look at the issues for us and with us, and let the judgment go into the hands of the Holy Spirit by joining with Jesus.

We want to be deceived, cheated, abandoned, and so on because it supports and maintains the ego's victim-hood story, and thus keeps the ego in charge. Only once we truly 'get' the fact that we are deceived because WE want to be, do we have the option of making another choice. And so the other choice is to forgive, starting with forgiving ourselves for wanting to be fooled, instead of judging ourselves stupid and unworthy once again. This way we won't fall into the trap of merely switching our vote between alternatives that can never live up to their promises, but we can let love be our guide in picking the best candidate with forgiveness in our hearts, guided by love, and without believing that salvation comes from any choices in the world, ever, for the world merely wants to be fooled, and therefore she will be. That story will never change. Our only meaningful option is following Jesus to his Kingdom that is not of this world, and never will be.

Trials are but lessons that you failed to learn presented once again, so where you made a faulty choice before you now can make a better one, and thus escape all pain that what you chose before has brought to you. In every difficulty, all distress, and each perplexity Christ calls to you and gently says, "My brother, choose again." He would not leave one source of pain unhealed, nor any image left to veil the truth. He would remove all misery from you whom God created altar unto joy. He would not leave you comfortless, alone in dreams of hell, but would release your mind from everything that hides His face from you. His Holiness is yours because He is the only power that is real in you. His strength is yours because He is the Self that God created as His only Son. (ACIM:T-31.VIII.3)
The common expression: 'Let's keep it real!' is an interesting study in the ego. More often then not, it is used  with a sigh of irritation, and the gist of it is to 'stick to the facts' and  to thwart any attempt to really look at the issues and get honest, because again what's real to the ego are the choices that the world has to offer, and it would not tolerate anything to question the reality of those choices. Therefore what's real to the ego is exactly the unreality of this world of illusory choices, and what the Course calls the real world is the way we live once we have forgiven ourselves completely for wanting to be fooled in the first place, and that is the only thing that will ensure that we won't be. At that point we've put the ego out of business, we've put Maya out of business, because we chose instead for the judgment of the Holy Spirit.

Resign now as your own teacher. This resignation will not lead to depression. It is merely the result of an honest appraisal of what you have taught yourself, and of the learning outcomes that have resulted. Under the proper learning conditions, which you can neither provide nor understand, you will become an excellent learner and an excellent teacher. But it is not so yet, and will not be so until the whole learning situation as you have set it up is reversed. (ACIM:T-12.V.8:3-7)

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

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Level Confusion

In the meantime, I'm working on the translation of Chapter 5 of the 2nd part of Margot Krikhaar's book, Awakening in Love. Among other things this chapter speaks to the idea over level confusion, a concept in the Course that is sometimes hard to understand at first. It is a concept also that goes back through the entire Judaeo-Christian tradition, and is constantly horribly misunderstood. In the hands of the ego, it predictably becomes another tool of sin, guilt and fear. The original intent is very clear however, and the Course points the way to restoring it, though in the end the complete restoration will be experiential.

The fundamental idea of level confusion is based on the Course's teaching of 'Level One'--the level of abstract truth, which speaks of Heaven, God, Oneness, Mind, Love, Reality, etc. as our only reality, and level two as the dualistic experience of the world which only flows from an illusory decision to separate. At level One, there is no world, there is only a oneness which is one and all inclusive and of which we are a part. This is however not our daily experience. So the Course also speaks to us on 'level two' which is the level of our concrete experience in the world, which we mistake for reality to the extent that we are identified with our egoic individuality, where we believe the body and the world are our reality, and we are not in touch that we made them up ourselves--not on the level of the conscious mental processes which are associated with brain activity, and which we mistake for our mind. The Buddhist calls it 'monkey mind.' The projection of the holografic reality happens in the mind, on a level outside of our individual bodily experience in the time/space hologram. Subconsciously, we would say, because we are completely dissociated from the mind, limiting ourselves to the conscious thinking of our 'monkey mind.'

The process of forgiveness as the Course offers it, and which is a restatement anno 2000 of what Jeshua taught in Palestine 2000 years ago, in effect is a way to dissociate our dissociation, the separation thought, the ego. In the Course's terms it helps us to 'deny the denial of truth'. (ACIM:T-12.II.1:5) Our 'stinking thinking' operates always and only at the level of WIIFM (What's In It For Me). It is shortsighted and geared to survival, and places us firmly on the battlefield alongside Arjuna. And the first sign of waking up is to realize the absurdity of the battle, of brother killing brother, and then turning to our Inner Teacher. He may be Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita, or Kuan Yin in the Buddhist tradition, or Jesus in the Western tradition as in the Course. He is the Symbol of Heaven, of God's Love.

In an ego conflict, the threefold forgiveness process of the Course points the way out:

  1. To start to question the ego's kill or be killed dynamic, and instead ask ourselves: "Would I accuse myself of doing this?" That opens the door, because it shifts our attention back from the world (effect) where we are unable to change anything, to the mind (cause), the only place where we can change anything...
  2. Is to look at the situation with Jesus, i.e. without guilt--having just made the first step to objectivity by at least questioning our ego's foregone conclusions. We may not know how to stop ourselves, but we can always:
  3. Ask our Inner Teacher to see things his way instead, and by withdrawing our judgment we will have made room for the judgment and guidance from the Holy Spirit. A that point the ego has stepped out of the way. 
What this also means, is that we have backed away from Level 2 and returned to Level 1, by joining with Jesus, and almost literally asking him if we can borrow his glasses, for ours are pretty foggy at times like that. At that level the guidance will always be the most loving solution for all concerned, not the unilateral and conflict-prone pushing of one party's interest. We have shifted out of fear and into Love.

The ego does all it can to prevent this kind of a disastrous outcome. So when we ask for Love, which is always our deepest will, this is a threat to the ego, for at Level 1, Love is all there is, and the ego is out of business. So, much like in the elections, the ego constantly offers us seeming alternatives, which are really all the same, because they implicitly reaffirm our choice for the ego. So when the ego hears us calling for Love, it--like the expert juggler that it is--promptly comes up with a love object of some sort, an idol. That could be anything that tickles our fancy, sex, food, drink, drugs, important functions, fame, fortune, Nobel prizes and whatever it takes to keep us convince of the importance of what we are doing in the world. The ego pulls a rabbit out of a hat, to distract our attention and keep us unaware that we are reaffirming the ego's power over it by whatever choice we make from the ego's menu, which is always at level 2, and which will have more options than the menu of the Holy Spirit, which has just one option: Love. 

In short, the ego is the provider of substitutes, surrogates, idols, something to worship, in lieu of the content, it  is the Wizard of Oz, it is the Emperor without clothes, the Hyacinth Bucket of the soul, insisting it is a Boucquet, and investing all available energy in keeping up appearances, and keeping us focused on problem solving in the world, lest we should ever remember we have a mind, let alone start to wake up. Perhaps the most monumental such substitution is the Pope in the RC Church, whose title is 'Vicar of Christ", according to the operative theology, he holds a spot for Jesus when he returns. By virtue of that title alone, he is the denial of the resurrection, and the theological model goes hand in hand with the notion that the Second Coming should be the return of Jesus in he body in this world, whereas the Course, in line with its overall metaphysical framework, has the opposite notion, that the Second Coming is about us folowing Jesus and joining with him in the resurrection (in the mind). The Course's definition of temptation is convincing the son of God that he is a body. The Course's version of the Lord's Prayer points the way out.

Forgive us our illusions, Father, and help us to accept our true relationship with You, in which there are no illusions, and where none can ever enter. Our holiness is Yours. What can there be in us that needs forgiveness when Yours is perfect? The sleep of forgetfulness is only the unwillingness to remember Your forgiveness and Your Love. Let us not wander into temptation, for the temptation of the Son of God is not Your Will.  And let us receive only what You have given, and accept but this into the minds which You created and which You love. Amen. (ACIM:T-16.VII.12) 
Copyright, © 2011 Rogier F. van Vlissingen. All rights reserved.