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. (ACIM:T-21.in.1)

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.
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