Saturday, December 29, 2012

Margot Krikhaar's Awakening in Love Revisited

The first half of this year was for me a time of deep immersion in the translation of Margot Krikhaar's book Awakening in Love, which has now been on the market as an e-book since the fall of 2012 - see and/or visit your favorite e-book site.

Surrounding the book, there seems to be an intensifying conversation for many people about intensifying our work with the Course, and making it more personal. There is no doubt in my mind that the Course is as comprehensive as it is for a reason, but equally the expanding literature around the Course serves a purpose. The standard bearer is of course Ken Wapnick, and the merit of his work is that it explains the Course with the Course, and by seeing every sentence and every paragraph in the context of the overall work, students are prevented from going off-track, which has been the risk of much of the secondary literature.

Gary Renard and some writers who have followed in his wake (Mike Lemieux comes to mind) has the role of popularizer--something everybody thought could never be done--by putting the Course teachings in the vernacular and also by offering the view "in the kitchen" of his own life, of learning by doing, and of forgetting to forgive, and starting over on a constant basis. Next to Gary's growing body of work, Mike Lemieux's Dude, Where's My Jesus Fish provides almost the Cliff notes to DU and YIR, and a lot of humor besides. Laughter is definitely a healing power!

Margot Krikhaar's book is in a category all its own, and she also sticks to the message of the Course. What makes it unique and interesting is that she did it in another language (Dutch), and she only got her start with the Course when it appeared in a Dutch translation, which was not till 1999. However, she must have been really ready. Like many of us, she had explored a lot of things along the way to her encounter with the Course, but when she found it, it was love at first sight. She had had some cursory exposure to it, but it clicked once she had the book in her hands in Dutch. She started from a Catholic upbringing, which is not something I personally identify with, but other than that almost all of her experiences, which she shares with her reader in this book, were very evocative in triggering memories of what I might have been doing at similar stages of life. The book covers Margot's life up to the point of discovering the Course, and what happened afterward through to her experience of awakening. After the current book appeared, Margot quickly emerged as one of the leading Course teachers in Holland, though more recently she has had to give that up for health reasons.

On September 12th, 2012 we had a special evening of my regular NY Course workshop at the New York Theosophical Society on East 53rd Street in Manhattan. That was more or less the starting signal for sales of the e-book. For now the book will ONLY be available as an e-book until volumes justify doing a print edition. The session brought together nearly all of the people who had been directly involved in the production of the translation, starting with the publisher, Annelies Ekeler, and the woman who financed the translation, as well as myself and two proofreaders who had worked on it with me. As I've shared elsewhere on this blog, for myself the project had been a big forgiveness lesson, and I'm sure the same goes for many of the other participants. That's only natural, and the payoff came in new inspiration and an expansion of learning.

Annelies Ekeler, is the dream publisher for this type of material, and IPP is becoming an interesting feature in the Course process in Holland, with both two titles by Margot, and a title from Ken Wapnick, and more on the way. Starting with this book, now also with the reverse, bringing Dutch books to the international market.
Besides being the inspired conductor of the little orchestra of this publishing house, she also is an active teacher herself, and a blogger on the Course, in her native Dutch. I want to share a piece she wrote recently, which I'm translating hereby:
It is not how 'heavy' your life is or the amount of suffering which determines when the mind awakens within itself, it is the mind which determines when the projection of sin, guilt and fear stops. Awakening is not a reward for suffering, or the cleaning up of your karma, nor a reward for many lives of suffering, or a reward for sacrifice, awakening is not the result of giving and taking. Awakening is also not the result of doing your best, working hard, and it also is not a reward from a God who feels especially benevolent towards you. Awakening is also not a special reward for a chosen one, nor is it a reward for daily prayer, contemplation or meditation.
The above catalog of everything awakening is not, can however be useful as forgiveness material, by taking back all of these ego-thoughts in the mind, where they can dissolve into the Oneness of Spirit through forgiveness.
Awakening is the decision of the mind to no longer believe in, or choose for, sin, guilt, and fear, but to forgive these, so that the mind awakens to itself, where it has never left.
I was very happy when Annelies sent me this concise summation as a reminder, and I am happy to share it here at the outset of a year in which we want to study Margot's material in my weekly workshops at the Theosophical Society. These words are a very powerful reminder of the basic nature of the forgiveness process:

  1. The problem is not out there, but in here
  2. In here I can look at it and decide that it's no longer what I want
  3. Now I can ask Jesus or the Holy Spirit for their vision of the situation, and let it go into their hands.
It is never about anything else but practicing how to give up my interpretation of the events, and trust in the better guidance from the Holy Spirit instead. It is simple, but not always easy, or the Course would not need 1,300 pages, nor would we need all the other literature. As it is, I'm thankful for the Course, and the many good books we now have to help us truly practice what the Course says, and Margot's book is high on my list.

Copyright, © 2012 Rogier F. van Vlissingen. All rights reserved.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Of John the Baptist and the Prophet Elijah

The beautiful relationship you have with all your brothers is a part of you because it is a part of God Himself. Are you not sick, if you deny yourself your wholeness and your health, the Source of help, the Call to healing and the Call to heal? Your savior waits for healing, and the world waits with him. Nor are you apart from it. For healing will be one or not at all, its oneness being where the healing is. What could correct for separation but its opposite? There is no middle ground in any aspect of salvation. You accept it wholly or accept it not. What is unseparated must be joined. And what is joined cannot be separate. (ACIM:T-28.VII.2)
As the Course makes clear throughout, everything happens in the context of our relationships, and in this life every relationship starts out as a special relationship, because the ego is our primary driver, until we begin to change our minds. A special relationships starts from the perception of lack, which inspires the idea that the other has something that I don't, and thus the impetus to the relationship is the filling of that lack. Inevitably, the day comes when the relationship partner disappoints, because he or she is always more and/or different than we bargained for. At that point relationships are broken off, and new ones started. If we should be so lucky, one day it will dawn on us that the game never changes, and moreover that it gets boring after a while.

With A Course in Miracles, the very practicality of forgiveness as the way out of this hell, is taught by learning to separate fact from fiction, in the sense that the ego's emotions are always fiction, because they are an interpretation of circumstances on the basis of the self-interest of an entity--our presumed individual identity--that is impermanent at best, and hence they merely are such stuff as dreams are made of.

Forgiveness, Course style, untangles the tangled emotions and eventually frees us from their stranglehold and leads us on the way back home. Along with the process of learning to see our brother sinless, by letting go of our grievances, we are learning to see the face of Christ in our brother, which is the face of who we are as an innocent Son of God. In the final stages of this process, we experience by definition with one particular brother the letting go of our last projections, as part of our forgiveness process. This is the deepest point, the proverbial darkest hour before the dawn, and in the Biblical account of the baptism in the River Jordan, it is symbolized by that baptism, an immersion in the "river of life" of our emotions, to the point of suffocation, before we see the Heavens break and hear God's Voice say to us that you are my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased. At that point we are then hearing the voice of guiltlessness, because we have then remembered who we are.

In this sense then Elijah or John the Baptist, as the Messenger who precedes the savior, symbolize that one brother on our way back home who becomes our final teacher by evoking a depth of emotion in us, which we then choose against, one last time, and that is when the Sky breaks, and we finally see the savior. The name Yehochanan (John) is very symbolic, God gives blessings--in it lies the recognition that our very salvation lies in these final forgiveness lessons, and that what the ego judged so badly, is in fact our biggest forgiveness lesson, and our final way out of the ego's hell. This happens only at the point of total immersion to the point of suffocation in that river of ego emotions, all rooted in fleeting awareness of time that is the River Jordan.
The fourth obstacle to be surmounted hangs like a heavy veil before the face of Christ. Yet as His face rises beyond it, shining with joy because He is in His Father's Love, peace will lightly brush the veil aside and run to meet Him, and to join with Him at last. For this dark veil, which seems to make the face of Christ Himself like to a leper's, and the bright Rays of His Father's Love that light His face with glory appear as streams of blood, fades in the blazing light beyond it when the fear of death is gone. (ACIM:T19.IV.D.2)
The key to the "parables" that come to us, and also of the story of the baptism in the River Jordan is the realization that it is all about us. We are not forgiving anybody our there, we are forgiving ourselves for our mistaken choice for the ego, which choice merely resulted in the false perception that we were outside of Heaven, a perception we then "make real" by seeing a whole universe of individual identities "out there" who are all outside of Heaven, and fighting each others for the spoils of the "nothing" that is the world. As long as we are not willing to forgive our silly mistake, we keep seeing the world in terms of "survival of the fittest," and ourselves in conflict with all our brothers. In that deepest ego-pit, that moment of immersion in our deepest emotional despair to the point of suffocating, we finally let go of our judgment of the world. This is the final decision moment when we let go of the last vestiges of our ego's judgments, and learn from our baptist that God gives Blessings, and as we finally relinquish the ego completely, we emerge from the pits to see the "face of Christ," in all our brothers, because we ourselves remember who we are in truth. In the Course's words "I am still as God created me." (ACIM Lessons 201-220: I am not a body, I am free. For I am still as God created me.) In the words of the New Testament, "Thou art my Son, in whom I am well pleased."
And now we say "Amen." For Christ has come to dwell in the abode You set for Him before time was, in calm eternity. The journey closes, ending at the place where it began. No trace of it remains. Not one illusion is accorded faith, and not one spot of darkness still remains to hide the face of Christ from anyone. Thy Will is done, complete and perfectly, and all creation recognizes You, and knows You as the only Source it has. Clear in Your likeness does the light shine forth from everything that lives and moves in You. For we have reached where all of us are one, and we are home, where You would have us be. (ACIM:T-31.VIII.12) 
Copyright, © 2012 Rogier F. van Vlissingen. All rights reserved.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Exodus Revisited

A Course in Miracles firmly stands in the context of the Abrahamic religious tradition, and it is for that reason that I named this blog as I did. I also realized that life had prepared me for appreciating that context to a great degree because I had intensely studied the scriptures earlier in my adventures of searching for God. I had learned Hebrew to read the Old Testament as it should be read, I had read my New Testament in Greek ever since my early teenage years, all as a way of getting closer to the text. I periodically studied the  Quran, though I never got into Arabic. More often I dabbled in Sufi traditions, where I was often deeply touched by the intense spirituality of such masters as Al Hallaj, who taught me the depth of the word Islam, surrender, and Tierno Bokar, who teaches so clearly that jihad is simply the inner struggle of dealing with the temptations of the ego. As the Course would have it, those always boil down to attempts to convince the son of God he is a body.

Temptation has one lesson it would teach, in all its forms, wherever it occurs. 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. It sets the limits on what he can do; its power is the only strength he has; his grasp cannot exceed its tiny reach. Would you be this, if Christ appeared to you in all His glory, asking you but this: 
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. 
(ACIM: T-31.VIII.1) 
At a sufficiently high level of abstracation, one can appreciate the connections of the Course teachings to the Bhagavadgita, to Advaita Vedanta, and Buddhism, and there are plenty of connections worth exploring for those who are familiar with those traditions, but very clearly, first and foremost, the Course is pitched at those who stand in the Abrahamic traditions, and primarily the Judeo-Christian one, which has so much permeated Western culture.

All of the great religions have their so-called esoteric, or mystical traditions, which for the most part are but the lay rendering of spiritual growth discussed in terms of their specific traditions, and which rest on some level of appreciation of the symbolic nature of those traditions, viewing them as parables of an inner process, which is the journey to spiritual awakening. Fundamentally the whole notion of "esoteric" arises only from looking at spiritual traditions without understanding, from an ego frame of reference and at times it then deteriorates into ritualistic meta interpretation of the parables of tradition, of which the Jewish Kabbalah is one of the extreme forms.

In the book of Mark, Jesus speaks of the opening of the understanding, which he performs on the apostles. In A Course in Miracles, there is mention of the fact that: "And it is recognized, that all things must be first forgiven and then understood" (ACIM:T-30.V.1:6). This is tantamount to the same teaching, since forgiveness means joining with Jesus, and choosing his judgment in lieu of the ego's judgment. The path of forgiveness means practicing discipleship of Jesus, and following his teaching. Even if we may fall down many times, we can get up again, and keep on working on it. It is the path of practice and it is the inner journey, the journey from the head to the heart, or as the Course would have it "a journey without distance to a goal that has never changed" (ACIM:T-8.VI.9:7). In terms of the teachings, their meaning is revealed to us from experience, and in the process the symbolism of much of our tradition begins to speak to us on a whole new level, exactly because we start to appreciate the symbolism of our own life, for when we forgive, and join with Jesus in the process, we start to see past the form to the content.

Along these lines a fascinating new book appeared recently by Robert Rosenthal, titled From Plagues to Miracles, and in it the author looks at the book of Exodus, and the account of the journey towards salvation Old Testament style, which of course is just another form of the inner journey which A Course in Miracles is all about. The book is clearly based on an integration of both the author's own inner journey, including his familiarity with A Course in Miracles, and his experience as a psychiatrist and psychotherapist, so that both his own experiences and patient experiences feed into helping us see through the symbolism, and open up a deeper understanding of the nature of the journey for ourselves. At this point we transcend the form of the manifest story, and we get in touch with the content, the inner story, again with our own inner experience as the central teaching/learning opportunity.

This book is a gem, and I shall write about it more in depth in due course. It is firmly rooted in the tradition of A Course in Miracles, without making familiarity with it an issue, so the reader can appreciate it with any background. It is also the story of the author's own discovery of the significance of Passover, as a universal symbol, completely from the awareness, as the traditional etymology of the word Israel (Ish-Ra-El, the man who sees God) would suggest, that it is an expression of mankind (the sonship) in exile, in the diaspora, and in the Egyptian exile in particular. As such it is the precursor to the story of the prodigal son in the New Testament, and its relevance never diminishes, as our growing inner experience lets us relate to it more and more deeply.

Copyright, © 2012 Rogier F. van Vlissingen. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

If Books Could Kill...

In a Dutch book review of Margot Krikhaar's Awakening in Love, the reviewer made the point that the book is dangerous to the ego, and he therefore cautions you to stay away from it if you intend to hang on to your ego. Of course, in the context of the Course, this is high praise indeed. Margot has quite the knack of sharing the experiences of her own Course practice--all the way up to the point of her own awakening--in such personal language that it absorbs the reader totally and, most importantly, invites us in and has us look at our own life and practice of the Course. Inescapably, the process is bound to work in the end, if nothing else because the ego-thought system "may be fool-proof, but it is not God-proof," as the Course puts it. (ACIM:T-5.VI.10:6)

The process of translating such a book of course brings with it a profound involvement with the text, far beyond the normal reading experience, which worked for me like a total immersion and a baptism. I use those terms quite in the spirit of the NT account of the baptism in the River Jordan, where it is reported that Jesus was baptized 'under Yehochanan' (John the Baptist). When that image comes back to mind, I am always reminded of the commentaries of the author Johan Willem Kaiser, who has been one of my most important teachers in this lifetime. He points out that the name 'Yehochanan' means something like 'God gives blessings,' or 'God gives graciously,' and as such it has everything to do with the end of feeling like a victim of the world--which goes hand in hand with the letting go of the ego's judgments--and instead accepting whatever is in front of our eyes as the very best classroom for helping us find our way home together with our brothers, guided by the Holy Spirit. Being baptized 'under' such a teacher, then, means simply that someone shows you the way to the acceptance of every successive forgiveness opportunity as indeed a blessed classrom for learning to trust--trust in the Voice for God, which is never absent but becomes audible only as we stop shouting over it. The journey is developing trust in the process--and in our Inner Teacher, which is how Jesus presents himself in the Course.

Being baptized in the river of life (the River Jordan), is symbolic of 'looking at the ego' with the light of the Holy Spirit, and most of us do indeed need some kind of teacher. For me Margot certainly became such a teacher through her book, and the experience of working on it in many ways resulted in a deepening of my practicing of the Course and my willingness to look at the ego's workings honestly and with the forgiving eyes of the Holy Spirit. And inasmuch as outside the Kingdom it all comes to us in parables, the symbolism of baptism becomes clearer as you go along, and, though she does not use that particular image, Margot talks about it constantly in her book--in terms of surrendering more and more, and allowing ourselves, to sink deeper and deeper into the ego's pit, under Jesus' loving guidance. In the imagery of the Course, underneath the deepest layer, which is our ego's fear of God, lies nothing but the Love of God. And therein lies the biggest difference between the psychotherapeutic notions of Freud, and the model of the Holy Spirit's thought system as it is taught in the Course. When we are done peeling the layers of the ego-onion, what is left is not nothing (as Freud would seem to have it) but indeed everything (as in the Course), the Love of God. In the imagery of the NT gospel account (Mark1:10), it is that moment of total immersion in baptism (to the point of suffocation), followed by the Heavens opening up and the Voice of God declaring that what we are is indeed "His beloved Son, in whom He is well pleased" (ACIM:T-4.I.8:6). The following passage also makes clear why we experience this as a journey, a gradual process.
Nothing and everything cannot coexist. To believe in one is to deny the other. Fear is really nothing and love is everything. Whenever light enters darkness, the darkness is abolished. What you believe is true for you. In this sense the separation has occurred, and to deny it is merely to use denial inappropriately. However, to concentrate on error is only a further error. The initial corrective procedure is to recognize temporarily that there is a problem, but only as an indication that immediate correction is needed. This establishes a state of mind in which the Atonement can be accepted without delay. It should be emphasized, however, that ultimately no compromise is possible between everything and nothing. Time is essentially a device by which all compromise in this respect can be given up. It only seems to be abolished by degrees, because time itself involves intervals that do not exist. Miscreation made this necessary as a corrective device. (ACIM:T-2.VII.5:1-13)
From a translation standpoint, this particular project exceeded all levels of difficulty I could have ever imagined, for the casual--and often sketchy--use of language, which is exactly what gives the book its relaxed and familiar style, makes a rendering it in another language especially challenging. Another aspect of difficulty that I had not really anticipated when I accepted the project, was the fact that I am working with an absolutely brilliant proofreader but one who, nevertheless, is totally unfamiliar with Dutch, and thus was in no way able to cross check my translations against the original text. This resulted in 'false positives' that were not translation problems per se, but were actually features of the text--except that in some cases these very non-problems still highlighted the fact that what was a casual usage in the original was even more challenging in the translation, demanding perhaps a poetic rendering but, at the same time, a somewhat more rigorous formulation to avoid potential misunderstandings that might arise in English.

In one extreme case, in the section "From 'I' to Self" in Chapter 9 of Part II, there was a level of subtlety involved that could not be resolved without profound discussion and consultation with the publisher (Annelies Ekeler) and eventually with Margot Krikhaar herself, who at this time is seldom available any more but her input was invaluable in this case to enable some creative word choices in order to clarify the meaning in a way that would have exceeded all every day translation logic. But in this particular situation, lots of inspiration and Margot's input were invaluable in bringing about some creative word choices that would help the translation. The solutions for such cases required a most attentive joining in listening to what was really being said and 'hearing' on all levels, because what was seemingly clear in Dutch risked total loss of meaning in translation and hence, in the end, needed some poetic word choices to avoid such pitfalls.

A particularly big challenges arose around the Dutch word 'ik' which can be either the personal pronoun 'I' or the noun 'ego' in English. At the same time, both the Dutch nouns 'ego' and 'ik' would be rendered in English as 'ego.' As such, this can in turn also cause confusion in English because of the Course's usage of 'ego,' as a technical term for the thought system of separation, when it refers simply to the 'individual self' in the conversational sense ('your ego' instead of 'the ego') - the body-identified 'self' (with lower case 's')--which the Course calls the 'hero of the dream,' the bodily identity we think we are in this life.

As a result of this potential loss of meaning and clarity, some alternative translations were the result in this particular section--again, to avoid the loss of meaning and clarity, which might have crept in had only the most 'obvious' translation been chosen. There is such a thing as being technically correct, in the literal sense, while failing to do justice to the content. And so we had some interesting conversations, arguments and consultations over these quandaries...

At this time, I am happy to say, we are in the final stages of cleaning up the book, and prepping it for production, and I thought it might be helpful to share some of these reflections on my own process with this book--which is such a lively account of the Course process--simply because, if for no other reason, these experiences are fresh in my mind at this point.
Laws must be communicated if they are to be helpful. In effect, they must be translated for those who speak different languages. Nevertheless, a good translator, although he must alter the form of what he translates, never changes the meaning. In fact, his whole purpose is to change the form so that the original meaning is retained. The Holy Spirit is the Translator of the laws of God to those who do not understand them. You could not do this yourself because a conflicted mind cannot be faithful to one meaning, and will therefore change the meaning to preserve the form." (ACIM:T-7.II.4)

Copyright, © 2012 Rogier F. van Vlissingen. All rights reserved.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Brother, you do believe them...

You would maintain, and think it true, that you do not believe these senseless laws, nor act upon them. And when you look at what they say, they cannot be believed. Brother, you do believe them. For how else could you perceive the form they take, with content such as this? Can any form of this be tenable? Yet you believe them [for] the form they take, and do not recognize the content. It never changes. Can you paint rosy lips upon a skeleton, dress it in loveliness, pet it and pamper it, and make it live? And can you be content with an illusion that you are living? (ACIM:T-23.II.18)
 In the book Awakening in Love, Margot Krikhaar writes about it like this:
It was during the course of a meditation, when I encountered my own most basic self-image, that I noticed how deep our convictions go. That happened because I felt a lot of longing to get closer to God but, at the same time, bumped into the profound conviction that I was absolutely not worthy of it. I had never identified consciously with the traditional images like ‘being a miserable sinner’ or ‘having to pay for it in hell.’ But those images appeared to be amply present in my unconsciousness. In the meditation, I suddenly saw myself as a very dirty, filthy wad, the kind of thing you might find in the street and that everyone would kick or walk on. That was very shocking, to see so clearly how I saw myself in the end. And therefore, that is how I have always seen myself! That was what the ego had always told me about myself, and I had swallowed it whole. And of course such a dirty, filthy wad does not deserve to return to Heaven; it does not belong there at all. Such a wad deserves only to live on in Hell until death. We need a lot of self-forgiveness! Our false convictions about ourselves go very deep. But we need only look at all these self-images—without judgment—and ask the Holy Spirit for correction. That is the only thing needed. (Awakening in Love, Part II, Chapter 9 - unpublished manuscript, expected publication June 2012)
It is alwasy interesting to see how different people deal with the Course and the seemingly Christian concepts in it and, and the ways in which we react to them. How we shield ourselves against the realization that the Christian theology is the perfect embodiment of the ego thought system, and indeed we all do believe it, regardless if we think we are atheists, Christians, Jews, or Hindu. This becomes another example of Thomas Merton's famous dictum of the journey from the head to the heart being the longest journey. Consciously, we may think that we have not bought the Christian theology, because we have left the church, were never in the church, were from another faith, or whatever, but once we start working with the Course it becomes obvious that Christian theology is the perfect model for the ego system of wanting to have our cake and eat it too - in this case wanting our individuality without the responsibility and guilt over shattering oneness, which is the fundamental premise of individuality in the first place. This deeply unconscious premise of the ego thought system predisposes us to a model in which some kind of an external savior takes the fall for the problem and saves us - he dies for our 'sin.' And what we don't get is that this thought system keeps the guilt going around, for now we secretly feel guilty that someone else took the fall for our choice to separate from Heaven and run our own show.

In my years with the Course it took me a long time to really even begin to start to get this at an experiential level, for intellectually I long since had thought that I understood that it was an absurd, not to mention cowardly, thought to have Jesus be sacrificed for our sins, and I would have thought I never believed that story. Other people may have lived with Christian beliefs, but once they really get into the Course they start somehow remembering that as little kids the story seemed pretty absurd to them, but naturally growing up as good healthy egos, they bought into it any way, until they finally stumble into the Course, and suddenly start remembering their initial disbelief of the theological explanations that their Church provided. And then the Course may suddenly seem to make a lot of sense with its very different view of this story. However, at that point we are at the beginning, not the end of an awakening process, and the real work is in learning to look at this belief system with the loving presence of Jesus as our Inner Teacher besides us and to finally learn to forgive these beliefs, which are nothing but the justifications and rationalizations of the tiny mad idea. As long as we are caught up in the paranoid schizophrenic thought system which is the ego, we fiercely defend against anything that questions our particular theology. It is a beautiful cover of protection that we simply accept a self-concept of being 'miserable sinners' and are dependent on an external savior, who - of course - never comes. Without the forgiveness process this thinking is too entrenched, and covered up in many ways, but with forgiveness the insanity of it can finally be seen for what it is, and let go.

Copyright, © 2012 Rogier F. van Vlissingen. All rights reserved.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Fool's Logic and the Iceberg of Guilt

In Chapter three of Part II of Margot Krikhaar's Awakening in Love, she writes extensively on the very important issue of what it means that forgiveness is all about what happens in the mind, and that observable effects may or may not be part of our experience. Here is a key paragraph:
Besides: even when you have solved all unconscious guilt in your own mind, you still could encounter physical or other problems. You still have a physical existence in this world of appearances, which is projected by the collective ego. So you are still subject to physical and material ’laws.’ But no longer will you be identified with them, and therefore you will continue to feel inner peace. (Margot Krikhaar, Awakening in Love, Part II, Chapter 3)
And in the surrounding discussion she addresses these issues in various ways based on her own experience, moreover, her own life has since become a living demonstration of the issue. Like Ken Wapnick and many others besides she also resorts to the image of the iceberg of guilt, making the point that of necessity, in our dream lives we can only deal with the issues that surface above the waterline of the unconscious, the tip of the iceberg. So in the same passage she also writes:
As a result, forgiveness in this lifetime extends itself to all lives and into all of time—past and future. For those lives are all illusory and only a result of unconscious guilt. That guilt is in the mind, outside of time and space, and it is the mind that projects all of these lives. A change at the level of cause—in the mind—automatically results in a change in the projected film: the lifetimes in the world. While your forgiveness seems to take place at the level of the life in which you find yourself (and has positive results here as well), the real work of salvation takes place at the level of the mind, where you are in reality.
Since the ego is always focused on the form, it will always demand to see results in the form, which is the essence of the story of Jesus' tree temptations in the desert. The ego really wants nothing better than to fault Jesus for not changing the form, and to ignore the change in the mind, which is the level of cause. The effects of forgiveness are far reaching, because they happen in the mind which is outside of time and space, but our awareness at that moment is all preoccupied with one infinitesimally small part, our life, and we have no insight in the process of undoing that is gradually loosening the strings of the laws of the ego, and letting us out of prison. So while it is our experiences in form which present us with forgiveness opportunities in this lifetime, the point of the forgiveness work is not to move pieces on the chessboard, or to move one particular mountain as we perceive it. The point of the forgiveness work is in the mind to undo the decision that led us to perceive that our reality is this limited world of chess pieces on a board, that we call our 'life,' and while 'mountains' may be part of that experience, they are not our reality.
The result of forgiveness then on this level may equally be that certain mountains do move and others do not, our inner experience will increasingly be peaceful through the practice of forgiveness, so it will be indifferent where those perceptual mountains are, because we realize by then that our happiness is not dependent upon them.
Margot's life since then has become a demonstration of these issues, as she was diagnosed with advanced breast cancer that had already metastasized to her organs at the time of her first diagnosis, and she has shared these experiences in a blog. Meanwhile she also finished up her second book during the time she was already dealing with that situation. Her other materials, including her blogs about the meaning of health and healing, will be published posthumously. Suffice it to say here, that she reported early on that she sensed that somehow at the level of the mind she had already come to the conclusion that this experience was simply her way of leaving this life, that her job was essentially over, and she was at peace with it. Which IS the point: the "mountain" (of guilt) moved indeed, so any 'mountains' in the perceptual world no longer bother us the way they used to, or rather, the way we used to think they did.

Copyright, © 2012 Rogier F. van Vlissingen. All rights reserved.

Monday, April 09, 2012

The Voice of the Holy Spirit

In her book Awakening in Love, and specifically in the first Chapter of Part II of the book, Margot Krikhaar gives some salient examples on how confused we often are in the process of learning to discern the Voice of the Holy Spirit from the Voice of the ego, and, she highlights how seductive the voice of the ego can often be, including appearing completely reasonable, and quite convincing. So the learning process is about listening past that ego voice, and becoming willing to tune in to the soft still Voice that is the legitimate voice of the Holy Spirit.

The Course has many, many useful ways of expressing this issue. Here is one example:
The two voices speak for different interpretations of the same thing simultaneously; or almost simultaneously, for the ego always speaks first. Alternate interpretations were unnecessary until the first one was made.
The ego speaks in judgment, and the Holy Spirit reverses its decision, much as a higher court has the power to reverse a lower court's decisions in this world. The ego's decisions are always wrong, because they are based on the error they were made to uphold. (ACIM:T-5.VI.3:5-4:2)
Margot in her book refers to the voice of our 'inner critic' which is often mistaken by many for the voice of the Holy Spirit, when it is really the voice of judgment and thus of the ego. We might also remember how any religious overtones in our upbringing have a tendency to condition us to mistaking our 'conscience' for the Holy Spirit. Conscience in this context is entirely a concept of the ego, and the very instrument that keeps the cycle of Samsara, the cycle of sin, guilt and fear, alive.

In her description, Margot uses a wonderful concept, namely that in sorting out these thoughts, you can detect how some of these ego-based reasonings have you move 'away from yourself.' Even by having every appearance of being ever so reasonable, including an appeal to 'common sense,' and we might think again about the Samaritan woman: her forefathers since Jacob had drunk from the well, so why was there anything wrong with drinking from the well now? So the ego-appeal lies in 'it was always done this way,' and 'if it's good enough for my dear father, it's good enough for me.' As always these are all ego thoughts, ripples on the surface of the water that prevent you from looking into the deep. Relying on them means you are not listening to the Voice of the Holy Spirit, but getting distracted by superficial appeals to circumstantial logic, instead of ever getting in touch with your True Self.

Thus the un-learning process of the Course helps us to move past all this 'conditioning' and back to the authenticity of who we are in truth - in the words of the Course: "For I am still as God created me (ACIM-W-218)" - when the ego always incites us to act from anything else but our authentic Self, whereby we continue permanently enslaved and beholden to the ego and its advice, almost by definition since our ego choices are bound to create more problems than they solve. In short the ego continues to serve up the water that makes us thirst again, while the still, small Voice that points us to Jesus, who offers that water that will not make us thirst again. Eventually we will recognize that we are in the position of the Samaritan woman, and join her in her choice.
You cannot understand the conflict until you fully understand the basic fact that the ego cannot know anything. The Holy Spirit does not speak first, but He always answers. Everyone has called upon Him for help at one time or another and in one way or another, and has been answered. Since the Holy Spirit answers truly He answers for all time, which means that everyone has the answer now. (ACIM-T-6.IV.3)

Copyright, © 2012 Rogier F. van Vlissingen. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Problem and the Solution

The Course always takes you deeper and deeper at every successive turn, on that longest of all journeys, the proverbial journey from the head to the heart, from conceptual to experiential truth. This time around lessons 79 and 80 seemed to touch me deeper than ever, with their message of how all the seeming problems and decisions on the level of the world (level two in Course terminology) are mere ego ploys to divert our attention from the one decision we need to make, the choice of the right teacher, Jesus or the ego.

Most importantly, in the end the choice is not even a choice, for as we let our new discernment do its work, by looking at the ego with Jesus, and forgiving its silly diversions one after the other, the choice for the ego turns out to be not an option in the end. Who wants a bad copy if you already own the original - love is our natural inheritance as the Course reminds us again and again. The problem is not finding it, the problem is to stop blocking it.

At that point it turns out that all this time that 'longest of all journeys' was really a 'journey without distance to a goal that has never changed,' (ACIM:T-8:VI,9:7) and 'Enlightenment is but a recognition, not even a change at all.' (ACIM:W-188.1:4)

In the New Testament tradition the same issues are addressed in many different ways. I am particularly fond of the image from the Gospel of John of the Samaritan woman with Jesus at Jacob's Well, making the choice between the ego's water that makes you thirst, the projections of thought which merely move the deckchairs on the Titanic, and Jesus' water of the spirit, which will not make you thirst again. She then realizes that all of her special relationships were mere empty shells, and could not hold a candle to the Holy Relationship Jesus holds out to her, which again is the only real choice, and in the end not even a choice at all, because it is the only thing that is.

Another variant is the parable of Jesus' healing of the paralytic in Mark Chapter 2, here in the KJV:
Mark 2
1 And again he entered into Capernaum after some days; and it was noised that he was in the house. 2 And straightway many were gathered together, insomuch that there was no room to receive them, no, not so much as about the door: and he preached the word unto them. 3 And they come unto him, bringing one sick of the palsy, which was borne of four. 4And when they could not come nigh unto him for the press, they uncovered the roof where he was: and when they had broken it up, they let down the bed wherein the sick of the palsy lay. 5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said unto the sick of the palsy, Son, thy sins be forgiven thee. 6 But there was certain of the scribes sitting there, and reasoning in their hearts, 7 Why doth this man thus speak blasphemies? who can forgive sins but God only? 8 And immediately when Jesus perceived in his spirit that they so reasoned within themselves, he said unto them, Why reason ye these things in your hearts? 9 Whether is it easier to say to the sick of the palsy, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and take up thy bed, and walk? 10 But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (he saith to the sick of the palsy,) 11 I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy bed, and go thy way into thine house. 12 And immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went forth before them all; insomuch that they were all amazed, and glorified God, saying, We never saw it on this fashion.
Borrowing liberally from the exegesis of J. W. Kaiser, in his book 'Experiencing the Gospel' (not available in English), we might note that Capernaum etymologically is the place of consolation through forgiveness. What comes to him there is one who is wrapped up to the point of total spiritual paralysis in the matters of the world, of physical life. That one is us, it is me, the reader who reads this (for that is the meaning of being taught in parables), and we cannot even get to Jesus but by asking for help, and being lifted up into his presence. We need to get above the battleground with Jesus, before we can see that the problem was not what we made it out to be. In that process we are letting go of our concepts, our definitions of what the problem is, so we can come to look at it anew with his eyes.
Letting go of every attempt to do it ourselves, allows us to be lifted into his presence over all the seeming obstacles of the world. By truly abandoning our definition of the problem, we come to Jesus with the little willingness to suspect that our ego might have it all wrong, then we can truly accept his forgiveness. In the recognition that is born from that, we can arise from the paralysis (NB, the Course points out that the choice for the ego is the choice for the crucifixion, the choice for the Holy Spirit is the choice for the resurrection), knowing once and for all that it is spirit over matter, so that we no longer let the world determine who we are, which led to the paralysis, but follow the spirit first, so that the forms we seem to experience in the world serve us on our way home, instead of the other way around, us serving the world, in slavery to the ego, and ultimately in the deadly paralysis of the ego's choice for the crucifixion. Instead, we can now make the choice for the Holy Spirit, for the resurrection, by heeding Jesus' command: Arise, and take up thy bed, and go thy way into thine house.

Copyright, © 2012 Rogier F. van Vlissingen. All rights reserved.