One central concept that is pervasive in Kaiser's work is that "to follow Jesus" is about inner experience, while the evolution of Christianity was all about morality and behavior, and confessions of conscious beliefs, in other words, it became primarily all in the head, and external, which is not what Jesus was talking about, but it evolved that way under those who came after him, starting with Paul. The latter becomes very true if you begin to study Paul's struggle with concepts in his writings, and how he resolves his own inner contradictions in his evolving mythologizing of Jesus, founded on his famous conversion experience on the road to Damascus, which I still sense was a completely legitimate experience, the problem being that our ego has a fair way of co-opting absolutely everything, and reinterpreting it to suit its purposes.
Before I found my way to Kaiser's work, I had been familiar since early childhood, at least age 4, with Ms. Margaretha "Greet" Hofmans, aka. "Tante Greet" (Auntie Greet). She was a student of his during the Second World War, and she had a channeling-type experience of what I would today call Jesus. Her preferred way of referencing him with me was as "the Help," or "God's Help," (the etymological meaning of his name in Hebrew), explaining to me from time to time how this Help was available to me whenever I wished, except on the condition that I should understand that this Help was not like Santa Claus, fulfilling wishes, and giving you what YOU thought you wanted, but rather, it meant that you should be willing to let go of your definition of the problem, deferred (ego-) judgment was the key. Only when I was in my forties and fifties and studying A Course In Miracles did I truly realize how utterly profound this explanation was, and how wonderful as a way to explain the situation to a child. This theme is pervasive in the Course, that we have to go up to the Answer (the presence of the Holy Spirit in our minds), instead of dragging the answer down into the world by making the world, "the problem" good and real. In short his Kingdom indeed is not of this world, he did not say that by accident. Kaiser had an inspired work partnership with Ms. Hofmans, in which he did write books, and give public presentations, and she worked one on one with people, to help make them aware of their own inner access to the Help, as well as channeling answers to questions for them. So it was only natural that my acquaintance with her should lead to finding my way to Kaiser's work later on.
Since then things have for me come full circle on a number of different levels, some of which I am no doubt not even aware of yet, as I write this, but some of them are very clear. Number one, as much as Ms. Hofmans and Kaiser put me on a track to at least some awareness of the inner access to this living Presence of another knowing, that is somehow present to us all if only we stop denying it long enough, they taught me to see the distinction between that direct inner awareness and inspiration, and the rationalizations of the dialectic mind (what the Buddhists call "monkey mind"), which in the Christian tradition are symbolized in terms of the Pauline reconstruction of Jesus' teachings into Christianity, and later the Nicene Creed, which really reduces things to conscious beliefs and rationalizations only. Parallel phenomena occurred in Vedanta and Buddhism, e.g. "what's known as the teachings of the Buddha are not the teachings of the Buddha," while a pure non-dualistic teaching in Advaita deteriorated into a very dualistic Hinduism, though from time to time some inspired teachers emerged who returned to the source, similar to the Christian experience. Inspired living begins only when we stop taking the ego's rationalizations, and our concomitant perceptions totally seriously, and make some room for spirit, and the first step therefore must be to learn this inner discernment, since we cannot prevent the ego from literally running us into the ground, lest we begin to learn another way of living, by making a deliberate choice.
A Course in Miracles was born from Helen Schucman and Bill Thetford's realization that "There must be another way," (for the full story of the scribing of the Course, see Ken Wapnick's biography of Helen Schucman, Absence from Felicity). The Course is totally geared to an emphasis to the experiential "following" of Jesus, by letting him take us by the hand and teaching us another way of looking at the world, and thus engaging on a path that will loosen our abject slavery to the ego until we learn to live in inner freedom again. I became aware of the Thomas gospel in the early sixties, and was always intrigued with it, and I followed the evolution of the scholarship which gradually led to date it earlier than Paul and the Canonical Gospels. However, it was not until Gary Renard's books came along, that I fully realized that the Thomas gospel was indeed the voice of the pre-Pauline Jesus, who had not yet been redacted into a proto-Chrsitian, but the more I realized that connection, the more it grew in importance in my mind, and thus the idea for Closing the Circle was born.
There were more circles than one being closed however, and here's a collection:
- In the Course, Jesus frequently offers corrections to the Bible, or our understanding of it, and states that he meant something else than what has been "made of him."
- In the Thomas gospel the Jesus who speaks is free from the editorial influences that "made him" into the "bitter idol" of Christianity, who died a sacrificial death on the cross. (cf. ACIM:T-C-5.5:7)
- With roots in the enlightenment, the German school of Radikalkritik explored the disparity between Jesus and Paul extensively since the mid nineteenth century.
- Johan Willem Kaiser voices it as follows in a vocabulary entry in his book De mysteriën van Jezus in ons leven, (Eng. The Mysteries of Jesus in our Lives, not available in translation), voices it as follows "Presently the newly awakened psychology will gradually accomplish what pure religious devotion might have done: throw out Paul, and let Jesus in!" (as quoted on p. 115 in The Gospel as a Spiritual Path)
- Thomas Jefferson in his editing of The Jefferson Bible, which he titled, The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth followed the same logic of taking the Pauline/Christian wrappers off of Jesus.
- During the writing of the book then showed up the brilliant book of Nouk Sanchez and Tomas Vieira, Take Me To Truth, which offers an interesting insight in the ego's tendency of skipping steps in the process the Course refers to as the Development of Trust, and which provides a very interesting way of looking at Paul's development. (See their comments on "Bypass" on page 162 of their book.)
And so, if Ms. Hofmans introduced me first to "the Help" and then to Kaiser, and he gave me the "formal" introduction to the original teachings of Jesus, I subsequently followed that path and kept seeking until I found his voice in A Course in Miracles, and I ended up in turn being re-introduced by Gary Renard to that original voice, as it speaks to us from both ACIM and the Thomas gospel, but that time in the vernacular, leading me to write Closing the Circle. My earlier book about Kaiser's work, The Gospel as a Spiritual Path, really returns the favor, by affording the modern reader a glimpse into the work of and an introduction to this important teacher, who knew so well (as all real teachers do) his own unimportance, because truth can come through us, but it is not authored by us. Meanwhile he is one of the most important spiritual authors of the twentieth century in my book, on a par with (at least), Blavatsky, Gurdieff, Rudolf Steiner, Alice Bailey, et al. Unfortunately he has been nearly forgotten, even in his native Holland, a situation which I hope can yet be changed.