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.