Thursday, August 29, 2013

Margot Krikhaar on Money

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)

Recently, I hosted a group reading on a webinar of Margot Krikhaar's article "All the Money Belongs to Everyone," and it was recorded and is now available on YouTube: Discussion of Margot Krikhaar's Money Article.

The first and most obvious thing is that the whole topic of money is rife with opportunities for level confusion, yet, even the records we have of Jesus's teaching outside the Course are pretty clear: Give to Caesar what is Caesar's. That was always clear, except it becomes a lot clearer when you understand the concept of levels in the Course. As Margot says in the introduction, she came to realize in her work in the corporate world (healthcare), that issues about money are not at all about money but about the content behind it, and about the attachments and attitudes of people. Money of course in the world is very involved with individual survival, and our attitudes towards it are a reflection of that. Thus the confusion is that we're having money problems, which are a wonderful distraction from the one real problem we do have: we have chosen the wrong teacher, and money or any other issue in the world are just a distraction to keep us from ever looking at that one faulty decision we made in the mind.

Ken Wapnick's little book on Form versus Content, Sex & Money also focuses on the temptations for level confusion by the ego's two favorite topics, sex and money. Both of these present us with endless problems and challenges that root our attention in the world, as they appear central to our survival, and have almost unlimited power to distract us from making the one decision in the mind, to choose once again, to dump the teacher of folly (the ego), and to choose the voice of the Holy Spirit for our guide, as the opening quote above suggests. In short, money and sex are merely ego topics par excellence, but no different than many other opportunities for distraction, and every problem we face invites us into an opportunity for choice, and the choice is always between moving the deck chairs on the Titanic with the ego (changing the form), or changing the content, by shifting to the Holy Spirit for our guidance, which is the miracle.

As Margot insightfully points out in her article, it makes no difference if the money is yours or not, for even being in apparent control of money for another party, or in an organization, provides opportunities for abuse of power that reinforce the ego's agenda. It also makes no difference if your issues are simply managing money, or the lack of it. Both are simply opposite sides of the same coin. It gets even funnier when people have power struggles over money in the not for profit world. And naturally, although Margot does not mention it, the Marxist solution attempt is faulty also, since to focus on the distribution of the physical means, the money itself, eventually does not solve the problem - it is merely another way of moving the famous deck chairs. The only thing that does solve the problem is changing teachers, and choosing the miracle over the ego's madness, at which point we simply handle our money or lack of it in an unselfish manner and stop reinforcing the ego, and heaping on more guilt all the time.

From my own recollection, during my time in the corporate world, I remember an interview with some woman who was struggling through the financial aftermath of a stellar career that had been abruptly ended, and among other things getting some financial counseling. She had been making over a million dollars a year (in the eighties), and her attitude in her own words was: "I thought that money was the stuff people throw off the back of trains." While she was good at managing other people's money, not so her own. Only later, with my experience with the Course, did all of this start to make any sense, including my own keen awareness during periods of relative affluence, that money does not make you happy, and that I frequently felt guilty buying things I thought I richly deserved (listening to the ego!), which is exactly what the ego wants: to keep us feeling guilty. Guilty that we do have money, guilty that we don't have money, and everything in between, as long as the guilt increases, the ego is still in charge.

In short, the whole point is that everything becomes easier if we learn to listen to the Holy Spirit instead of to the ego, including all the thorny issues of money and sex. Ken Wapnick has also frequently commented when people think the Course is not practical, and/or you could not be a Course student and run a business effectively, that the opposite is often the case, for if you are truly coming from your right mind and following the guidance of the Holy Spirit, you are not going to get side-tracked by all of the ego's emotional blackmail and games, and see through the issues, and instead of getting confused (level confusion), by focusing on the apparent problems on the level of form and effect (money), you will be focused on the issues behind the appearances at the level of cause. By following the guidance of the Holy Spirit, you will remain the voice of reason in the midst of the wildest storms, which is the only way you can truly handle situations in a way that serves everyone's highest interest, and therefore does not create more guilt, but clears up the ego's obfuscations instead.

Saturday, July 06, 2013

Translating Margot Krikhaar's Second Book "The Great Liberation"

It is a total delight to be working on Margot Krikhaar's second book, The Great Liberation, which to all intents and purposes was the platform for her formal teaching of the Course. The first book was more "girl next door does the Course," and as such invited the reader to look in the kitchen of one who steadfastly practiced the Course and experienced her complete awakening in this lifetime.

Subsequent to the first book, Margot quickly became a prominent teacher of A Course in Miracles in Holland. This second book reflects her thorough preparation for her teaching and the complete integration of her own learning, to which readers of her first book were a witness.

Although this second book is much more rigorous and structured than the first, it retains Margot's delicious sense of humor and her light touch. Early on she describes the two broad categories of how people can get off on the wrong foot with their practice of the Course. Essentially, one is to totally focus on the theory and forget the day to day practice, by which it becomes a vaporous intellectual exercise that is all in your head. And the other is the route of ignoring the theory and working only on an emotional level with all the seemingly reassuring statements in the Course, and misusing them as affirmations or mantras. Naturally there are many variations on these themes.

Margot's treatment of these extremes of reacting to the Course are spot on, based on what I have seen personally in my years working with ACIM. Most specifically though, it made me reflect on my own experiences in my early years with the Course. Personally, I had studied a lot of the "apocryphal" literature and its provenance, and had been acquainted with the Thomas gospel early on, when it was translated for the first time in the late fifties (in Dutch, in 1959). Along with it, I had read a fair amount of Plato, and Plotinus in Greek, and was in the habit of reading my New Testament in Greek, though my primary focus remained on the Gospel of Mark, which I believe to be relatively the least embellished of the canonical gospels. I had also studied some of the early Christian history, and various Gnostic teachers, only to become more confused as I went along.

In my younger years, I'd experienced my parents leaving the very liberal protestant church they had belonged to and where I was baptized (Remonstrant Brotherhood). They left within 2 years after my birth, though they clearly retained a sense of a relationship with Jesus and his gospel but seen in a very different light, and with a sense that his church was within, and not in some building. When the first public presentations about the Thomas gospel took place, I remember a certain level of excitement when they went to a speech by Prof. Gilles Quispel, who was the first translator. There was an excitement about the notion of getting to know how Jesus sounded in the original, before he was turned into a little Christian by Paul c.s. in later years.

My mother had  spent some time with the Oxford movement before settling in the Remonstant Brotherhood for a few years, and my father's spirituality was more widely framed, with religious and spiritual traditions from around the world, including Hindu teachers like Sri Ramana Maharshi, and Sri Ramakrishna, as well as Buddha, Lao Tse, and (then) modern authors from Tolstoy and Dostoyevski, to Romain Rolland, Áldous Huxley, and Herman Hesse. Professionally, he was a psychiatrist, and very much in touch with the spiritual undertones of what he did. Never mind all that, it seemed as if my mother in particular had a very strong sense of awe for certain "mysteries of the faith," and she would convey an attitude that mirrored the "Ours is not to reason why." type of respect. There were questions you weren't supposed to ask. Her conviction seemed to be that revelation was our only hope, but I was never satisfied with that. So, when I finally found A Course in Miracles,  at age 40, it came as quite a relief, and I could wholly appreciate Helen Shucman's famous exclamation: "Finally, God for intellectuals." In the Course there is never a question you can't ask, although Jesus can be quite annoying with his answers, at times pointing out that our questions are not really questions, but trick questions that are really veiled statements.

For me the Course instantly clarified the whole early history of Christianity, about which I've written since then in my book Closing the Circle: Pursah's Gospel of Thomas and A Course in Miracles. For one thing it became clearer than ever how much Jesus was never a Christian, but just bombarded into one by those who came later and exploited his teachings for their own ends, in similar ways to what is happening with A Course in Miracles today. He was certainly never a Gnostic; the later gnostics merely co-opted some of his vocabulary, but to consider Jesus a gnostic in the formal sense would be completely anachronistic.

The big thing for me was that the Course answers every question and explains everything, and never stops its full accounting of the ego system, which only serves to lift the veils of "mystery" which that insane thought system uses to protect itself, and clothe itself in an appearance of meaning, when it has none. At the limits of what can be explained, the Course has established complete confidence and accountability with the reader, and merely states that only experience can go beyond the words, so if they made sense so far, you might want to try to do what the Course is saying. In other words, the whole thing provides a full and complete transparency and accountability, and nowhere appeals to blind "faith," but to experiential validation.

There are times when the ego just short-circuits with the material of the Course, and for a moment it seems incomprehensible, but always those blockages are resolved if we trust our experience, and they can be gone beyond. The answer always is that things must be first forgiven and then understood.

Margot's book is very much informed by her own experiences as we already know from her first book, and the fact that she speaks from that deep knowledge of the Course's process makes this book, while it is a rendering of the Course theory primarily, into a valuable guide for many who are first becoming aware of A Course in Miracles.

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

Monday, June 17, 2013

Margot Krikhaar Resources in English

As the readership of Margot Krikhaar's Awakening in Love is starting to grow, I wanted to bring together some notes on resources about her in English.

At the time that I started writing this post, Margot was in the terminal stages of breast cancer, and some of the articles, particularly the ones about physical death and the end of time, are really inspired by her process with this illness, and can be very helpful to anyone who is dealing with those challenges, as we all will at one time or another. Since then I've updated the information, because of the new website, and added the new "Letter to Margot."

I am also about to begin work on the translation of Margot's second book, The Great Liberation, which should see the light before the year is out. As I start working on this book, I will no doubt periodically be blogging about it here.

Friday, June 07, 2013

Double Dutch, Early Course, Early Christianity All Over Again

A Course in Miracles stands in the context of the Abrahamic religions, as Jesus did in his time: it transcends the framework, as Jesus once transcended his Jewish environment, without ever seeking to deny it. He merely went beyond it. But it was not until those who came after him that there was evident need to separate from Judaism, and then later of course Muhammed again took issue with the Christian interpretation of Jesus, as much as Christians had disagreed amongst themselves since the early days.

The emergence of Christianity, which was eventually consolidated around the theological interpretation of Jesus by Paul c.s. was merely the world's way of trying to put the genie back in the bottle. But the resurrection meant that it was too late for that, for ever since the baptism in the River Jordan, when Jesus heard the voice say: "Thou art my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased." Jesus was fully awakened, and he may have been before that time, but as some early Christian sects understood it, that moment was the resurrection. This was one of the more fascinating topics of disagreement in early Christianity - the disagreement about if the resurrection happened before or after the crucifixion, and as usual, theology became a huge distraction. Finally, this is a point that the Course clearly identifies with, namely that at the time of the crucifixion, Jesus was long since fully awakened and knew completely that he was not his body.

For those who are steeped in the Judaeo-Christian tradition it soon becomes clear that the Course uses that religious tradition for contrast, because it simply is the dominant context in the Western world. In content however, the Course is completely universal, and among others, students of the Bhagavad Gita could find themselves at home in it as well.

Personally, I "discovered" the Course in 1991, some 16 years after its initial publication. From 1991-1999, I studied intensely with Ken Wapnick and the Foundation for A Course in Miracles in Roscoe. It was in those years when the legal challenges occurred which eventually led to the voiding of the copyright on the first edition of the course by a somewhat cavalier judge in New York. So I watched that whole story unfold. I became aware of some of the many groups who sought to reinterpret the Course according to alien criteria, ranging from certain forms of Course fundamentalism all the way to various cultish phenomena. It always occurred to me that it was a replay of early Christianity, with comparable kinds of dogmatism creeping in and altering the message. And such is only natural after all; it is merely the ego at work.

Towards the late 90's I began to watch Course activities in Holland mostly through participation in some online groups. My primary motivation was a desire, as an expat, to keep my native language fresh. To a degree, I was amazed at how all the issues that we went through here were being repeated there, and sometimes it seemed as intense and disturbing as the arguments we had lived through in the States. Inevitably, this included almost every variation of what we had lived through in the early years of the Course in the US, including people advocating for the stolen versions of early drafts of the Course as somehow more authentic, as well as various other strains of Course related teaching, ranging from a Course Calvinism which wants to take everything the Course says literally, to various other mixed forms. In short, nothing had been learned from the American experience, and all the same issues seemed to have to be re-lived. Again the ego has a field day using the distractions of the form to avoid awakening by any means necessary.

Watching these developments from afar often brought to mind early Christianity for me, when nobody was following Jesus, but everyone was interpreting him their own way, starting with Paul, who simply produced the most seemingly ego-friendly version of Jesus, and literally rendered him suitable for Ceasar. At times it struck me like the opening scene of 2001 Space Odyssey, where the monkeys dance around that mysterious black cube. In my perception, this picture completely changed once the voice of Margot Krikhaar appeared on the scene. Even the work of Gary Renard, although undoubtedly very helpful in straightening out the message of the Course in the vernacular, still had the aura of being American even after the Dutch translations appeared. But with Margot the Course became Dutch in every sense, and found its authentic Dutch voice. Here was the girl next door practicing the Course, and experiencing a complete awakening.

At first, when I read Margot's first book, it seemed to me that it did not lend itself for easy translation, and perhaps its market was really just Holland. Later, a plan arose for a translation, and I was honored to be chosen as the translator. The translation was indeed hard, due in large part to the very casualness and informality of the book, but now it is finding a new audience in the English speaking market, and, not only that, I am once again lucky enough to be the translator. Interestingly, I am starting the translation of Margot's second book, The Great Liberation, immediately upon completion of Gary Renard's third book, Love Has Forgotten No One into Dutch. As always, synchronicity is at work again, for Margot's work touches a lot of the same themes as Gary's and working on the two so closely together is highlighting that for me.

As it is Gary Renard also personally went through a period of controversy a few years ago, but later he experienced at a Course conference in San Francisco, how many of these battling Course factions came together through his book, which cuts right through to the the essence of the Course, forgiveness, forgiveness and forgiveness. In short, most of us may argue with the Course at first, but in the end forgiveness carries the day, and that is exactly the point, and it is the reason why Jesus ask us in the Course to forgive him for not being what our ego wants him to be. In that light all the upheaval served the purpose of forgiveness.

Forgive me your illusions, and release me from punishment for what I have not done" (T.19.IV.B.8:1

Saturday, May 25, 2013

In Memoriam Margot Krikhaar

Wednesday May 22nd, 2013 Margot gently laid her body aside. Her job in this world was completed, it was time to leave the earthly stage.
In accordance with Margot's wishes, the cremation will take place in private, among a small circle of friends and family.
For those who want to express their condolences, there is an opportunity to do so in a digital condolence register.
In some way, the translation of the Course into Dutch was not complete until the work of Margot Krikhaar appeared, for with her work an original Dutch process of assimilation began. It was very symbolic that she studied the Course in Dutch, when it was published in that language in 1999, and understood it like no other, experiencing her awakening in 2007. In short order, after the appearance of her first book, Awakening in Love, she became a leading Course teacher in Holland. That first book to all intents and purposes represented "the girl next door does the Course," and it is so personal and disarming, but at the same time shows that the Course "works," even if you read it in Dutch, as long as you just practice what it says. In short, at that point the Course was no longer a foreign object, but had thoroughly landed in Holland. At the same time her very personal, and very disarming account of her work with the Course is now reaching English readers as well, and will undoubtedly help many.

Presently, I am at the outset of translating Margot's second book, The Great Liberation, which was the essence of her teaching of the Course, and has all the disarming simplicity and directness as the first book, while at the same time being more formal and systematic. It is a more polished work, and it certainly shines like the brightest diamond, and presents the Course in a very easily comprehended, linear presentation. It was during her work on the second book that Margot was diagnosed with advanced stage breast cancer, and she ended up fairly quickly having to build down her teaching work, finish up the book and some articles, and planned her succession in the form of a foundation that was to manage her literary estate. Finally this week she passed away.

As soon as I read the book Awakening in Love for the first time in manuscript form, I felt as if the Course had gotten a Dutch voice. My personal observations of the Dutch Course scene, from my expat-perch in New York, provided my context for these observations. It was in the late nineties some time that I began to follow some Course discussion groups in Holland. For me the motivation simply was that I liked to stay current in my native tongue, and I might as well be reading something that interested me. I was amazed how all the issues that we had previously gone through in the US, were being rehashed in Holland, and at times it seemed as intense and disturbing as anything I had lived through in the States. Even the work of Gary Renard, which is also an account of very personal experiences with studying the Course, and which very much stays on message, could not escape being a translated book, simply because it was. But Margot bought the Course in Dutch when it came out, and simply set about practicing it, without any concern for the raging controversies, and with the account of her experiences the Course simply had landed in Holland, and found an original, Dutch voice.

I had known the manuscript of Awakening in Love for a few years before it was published by IPP. Annelies Ekeler and Margot took the book around to every publisher they could think of. I had written a letter of recommendation for the book. Finally, Margot asked Annelies if she would function as the publisher. After it was published, it never occurred to me that it should be translated, but once that project got under way, I began to notice the positive responses the book was getting, and I knew it is destined to be helpful for Course students anywhere. It is simply  a very powerful personal account of what it means to study the Course, and to truly practice forgiveness, in a style that makes it easy to recognize ourselves as we go through our own process. Magot's account simply invites empathy and recognition.

We owe Margot a debt of gratitude for the clarity and honesty with which she shared her own journey with us, and it is clear that through her work directly and indirectly she is present with us any time we want. I am confident her books will be invaluable to many, and hers undoubtedly was a life well lived. One can only be grateful that in the end she was able to leave this world and her body in a peaceful way, with a practical demonstration of what it means to "gently lay the body aside." Her extensive and public diaries about the experiences with her illness will also be very helpful to many who are dealing with similar issues, as are her articles. The end was the purest demonstration of what we really mean with Requiescat in Pace, except in this case it's no longer a matter of may she rest in peace, for we know she is resting in peace. It is no longer a wish, it has become a certainty, in as much as she had long since found inner peace, which was evident throughout her dealing with her final illness as well as her passing away. As much as Margot taught the Course through workshops and books, she taught it by living it.

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

Sunday, April 28, 2013

In Memoriam D. N.

It is a delight to see the work of Margot Krikhaar spreading slowly, ever since the book Awakening in Love,  was published in the summer of last year. With little publicity, excepting some events in a small circle, clearly, the word is getting out.

For me personally, I have been delighted with the feedback ever since we had a small gathering at the place where I give my Manhattan workshops on the Course, in September of 2012, and I have gradually begun to get feedback from all the participants in that event. Some time in January of 2013 my friend D. N. reported to me that he was rereading the book, and he was deeply, deeply moved by it. I knew him as a man of few words, but certainly as one person who was never at a loss for words, and his mastery of the English language stood him in good stead in his profession as a lawyer. But that time he choked up and he was simply at a loss for words, and I knew something profound was going on with him.

D. had known of A Course in Miracles since it first appeared, and in fact his wife told me at one point that she got their first copy from Judy Skutch in Washington when it just appeared. D. was one of the many people who found it hard to get "into" the Course, although it evidently attracted him. He was one of many people for whom the reading of Gary Renard's The Disappearance of the Universe, was the breakthrough he had needed, which opened up the Course to him. Since then he had studied Gary's work intensely, and subsequently became a student of the work of Ken Wapnick, and now he started reading Margot Krikhaar's book.

When he told me about his experience of re-reading the book, he was just about to take off on vacation to Hawaii, that Island state where Gary Renard hoped to live one day, only to see his ex-wife Karen beat him to it. As it was, D. left for Hawaii with his family, and they were going to attend a dream workshop while there, but obviously they were also there to enjoy nature. One day, D. had a beautiful dream, in which he found himself in a large hall, in something like the Waldorf-Astoria, between two groups of people with different color t-shirts, and: "Then an old man with a long white beard entered, and D. knew he was the Leader of Planetary Consciousness. The people all moved away from him, while D. went towards him. Then he woke, singing The Gambler." As it was, the day that he had this dream, and shared it with his family at breakfast, was to be his last day in this sublunar world. Later in the day, he went swimming and was gripped by a riptide, and did not make it.

I was told of this dream later by his now widow, and for me it chimed in powerfully with the emotion I had seen and heard in him about Margot's book, and it would appear to symbolize a decision in the mind of leaving the dead to bury the dead, of leaving duality what it is, and choosing oneness instead. Naturally, that does not necessarily have to coincide with leaving the body and making your transition, but it certainly suggests a deep level of peace of mind at the moment that he did, which evidently is the objective of ACIM. Margot's book is a powerful testimony in its own right, and clearly my friend welcomed the reinforcement of the relationship to our inner Teacher which is so evident in the book. Based on his life-long interest in Tibetan Buddhism (an interest I did not know I had in common with him), his last rites were performed by a Buddhist priest on Hawaii, and he was cremated there, and his ashes spread on the ocean.

More recently I attended a memorial service for him, which was truly a celebration of a rich life, and I was delighted to hear that this man, who had been a successful corporate attorney, had expressed that he wanted to be remembered as a spiritual person, more so than as a lawyer. He was a very dear friend to me, who I had met when he hosted a dinner for Gary Renard at one of Gary's New York workshops, where I was the organizer. The moment of him telling me about his second reading of Awakening In Love, will be with me forever.

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