Saturday, May 30, 2009

Aeon Byte Interview

The website Aeon Byte is now starting to promote a recent interview they did with me, which will air over internet radio through the site on 5/30 and 5/31.

It certainly was a fun interview to do, because of the questions the host, Miguel Conner, came up with. He knows the broader background quite well, and this made it interesting, I think because my work is just a smidgeon outside of his "usual fare" - if there is such a thing, for he has a fairly wide range.

Given the topics his show/website covers, his vantage point naturally is gnosticism, and I think it is fairly well a given that A Course in Miracles represents a modern equivalent of gnostic thinking, and many of its students have previously been interested in Gnosis and Gnosticism.

As  a critical note, I might add that in certain quarters the fact that Jesus used some terms that were widely used by the Gnostics, foolishly is thought to imply that he was a Gnostic. This is not the case. It is about as logical as saying that I must be a Frenchman because someone heard me speak French. The budding Church of Peter and Paul, which became Christianity, was in the habit of using the term Gnostics as almost the equivalent of heretics, for by that time the emphasis was already starting to shift towards formalizing their version of Jesus's teachings as a religion, as the world understands these things. In other words, for them, it was about the outside of the cup, not the inside, whereas Jesus taught (in the Pursah rendering: ("Why do you wash the outside of the cup? Don't you understand that the one who made the inside, is also the one who made the outside?" - Logion 89) So mainly the difference between what became the orthodox Christianity of Peter and Paul, and the "Gnostic groups" is about seeing the relevance of his teachings on an internal level, as an inner experience of learning the teachings of Jesus, versus the outer religious practice of what became Christianity, which focuses primarily on the outer level, on the words and the behavior. In short, Jesus was not a Gnostic in the narrow sense, but the Gnostics as a group did preserve certain aspects of his teachings which were ignored or actively repressed by the increasingly powerful group around Peter and Paul. Some schools, such as the school of Valentinus did come very close in their understanding to the way we now see his thought system in A Course in Miracles. I believe that it is this circumstance why many people who study the Course in this lifetime, have some form of past-life memories of being around at the time of Jesus, and very often in a gnostic context.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Stand Up Spirituality

I just returned from Gary Renard's workshop in Amsterdam, on May 22 (booksigning at ABC/Treehouse) and May 23rd (Workshop at the beautiful Amstelkerk), and it was delightful, including the fact that I got to sign some books as well. In the newsletter of his Dutch publishers, Altamira-Becht, there was a terriffic account of the whole workshop, and the writer of same coined a phrase which bears repeating. In a play on Gary's constant stream of jokes, which are sprinkled throughout his otherwise very serious workshop - I guess as a reminder that seriousness causes reincarnation - he dubbed the performance "standup spirituality." Meanwhile Jan Westerhof, a Dutch painter, whose triptych was the background of the presentation, took some pictures and decided that Gary looked a bit like Benny Hill (see picture).

Very much in the spirit of Logion 42, "Be Passersby" and in a play on the Course's notion that we forgot to laugh at the "tiny mad idea," (the thought of separation), Gary peppers his books and his presentations with humor. At the same time, he lets us have a look in the kitchen of his own learning of the Course, through his books and workshops, including numerous "embarrassing" and very "personal" episodes, which is a reflection of his profound understanding that nothing, but nothing in this life is to be taken seriously. The way out of hell is definitely sprinkled with humor, simply from seeing how completely ridiculous the shenanigans of the ego are, quite in the sense of what Ken Wapnick likes to call: "A dysfunctional solutions to a non-existent problem," and we spend most of our energies on dressing it up and making it look very seriously, now that's a laugh.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Moving from a God of Fear to a God of Love

Gary Renard's 29th podcast, deals with the themes of a different way of looking at our relationship with Jesus. He speaks here about his experience of starting to discover the power of the mind through EST at one point, and he speaks about the Hay House conference, and some of the questions are interesting too about a shift that is beginning to happen within even traditional Christianity. Bishop Carlton Pearson is one example of that, although Gary does not mention him by name, but refers to me mentioning him. Another interesting case is Paul Vieira from Canada, who talks about the notion that Jesus has left the building. The one Gary mentions is Joel Osteen.
Also interesting is that he mentions younger and younger people coming to his workshops. And all the way through the focus is on moving from fear to love. A nice additional point is how Gary addresses that we should use whatever spiritual teachings and paths that work for us, and it makes no difference. At the same time, in the spirit of the Course, if you feel that the Course is the right path for you than stick to it, simply because it works better undiluted.

Stevan Davies on Thomas Sayings in Mark Part II, Unit 4

This final item from Stevan Davies' second article on the use of the Thomas sayings in Mark, starts with the parallel of Mark 6:1-6 and Logion 31 in Thomas.

Clearly that saying, which may already have had currency as a popular saying in the time of Jesus, points out the obvious that the miracle is is not recognized by the ego context in us, symbolized here as the environment "where we came from" in worldly terms.

In this case certainly the passage in Mark, while significantly expanded from the form the statement has in Thomas, certainly does do justice to the original gist of it, if it is properly understood, as it will be by anyone who seriously puts following Jesus to practice in their life, as by practicing A Course in Miracles. It is not the ego personality in us that can be "saved" or "enlightened," accepting the atonement means the realization that there is no ego, that it has no reality, that the "tiny, mad, idea" never happened. Likewise this awakening in us, means an awakening to spirit, and  can not be recognized by that which is associated with our provenance in the world of time and space, which is the substitute reality of the ego from which we awaken in the process of accepting the atonement for ourselves.

The next Logion which Davies covers here and is also in the Pursah version of the Gospel of Thomas, is Logion 45, which is paralleled in Mark 7:21-23. This point is a parallel to the idea Jesus gave to Helen Schucman: "What you do with a desert is you leave." (as quoted in Ken Wapnick's biography of her Absence from Felicity, p.236). In the Pursah version this Logion is reduced to its absolute bare essence, making the point again in a different way that the dead nature of the ego cannot bring forth the truth, that love cannot come from fear, etc. The way this is elaborated in the Markan passage does not compromise the original intent, namely that the truth comes from within, and is content, not dependent on form. However, we do note that the emphasis is shifted to some of the lines which Pursah leaves off, indicating that in her view these were later accretions, and not part of the original saying.

Next Davies relates Mk 9:35, 10:31, and 10:43-44 to Logion 4b (i.e. the second clause). Clearly here the Markan version editorializes and gives a concrete meaning to the original statement which it did not necessarily have, by adding the consideration of serving others. This then evolves into some of the moral principles of Christianity, but has little to do with the original intent of the saying.

Next comes Mk 11:15-19, which parallels Logion 64b, which is however omitted entirely by Pursah. Mk 11:22-23 parallel Logion 48, and provide only a slight embellishment - Thomas speaks only of "moving" the mountain, but the Markan passage speaks of "throwing yourself into the sea," which does not seem to corrupt the meaning.

Mk 12:13-17 parallels Logion 100, here the Markan version is no more than a graphical embellishment, and a dramatization, without necessarily altering the original meaning.

This brings my commentaries on these marvellous articles from Stevan Davies to an end, and on the whole one can see how the synoptic version is an evident elaboration of the sayings version, and in some cases clearly shifts the meaning in a particular direction. Considering the process in light of Pursah's edits, sheds a different light on it from time to time.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Stevan Davies on Thomas Sayings in Mark Part II, Unit 3

The following passage which is covered in the second article on the use of Thomas in Mark by Stevan Davies, consists of a passage, Mark 4:1-34, which is almost entirely built from Thomas Logia. First, here is the Markan material (NIV):

Mark 4

The Parable of the Sower
 1Again Jesus began to teach by the lake. The crowd that gathered around him was so large that he got into a boat and sat in it out on the lake, while all the people were along the shore at the water's edge. 2He taught them many things by parables, and in his teaching said: 3"Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. 8Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, multiplying thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times."  9Then Jesus said, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear."
 10When he was alone, the Twelve and the others around him asked him about the parables. 11He told them, "The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables 12so that,
   " 'they may be ever seeing but never perceiving,
      and ever hearing but never understanding;
   otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!'[a]"
 13Then Jesus said to them, "Don't you understand this parable? How then will you understand any parable? 14The farmer sows the word. 15Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them. 16Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. 17But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. 18Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; 19but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. 20Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—thirty, sixty or even a hundred times what was sown."
A Lamp on a Stand
 21He said to them, "Do you bring in a lamp to put it under a bowl or a bed? Instead, don't you put it on its stand? 22For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open. 23If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear."  24"Consider carefully what you hear," he continued. "With the measure you use, it will be measured to you—and even more. 25Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him."
The Parable of the Growing Seed
 26He also said, "This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. 27Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. 28All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. 29As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come."
The Parable of the Mustard Seed
 30Again he said, "What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? 31It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest seed you plant in the ground. 32Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds of the air can perch in its shade."  33With many similar parables Jesus spoke the word to them, as much as they could understand. 34He did not say anything to them without using a parable. But when he was alone with his own disciples, he explained everything.

The majority of this material seems to be straight from the Thomas Gospel, with the exception of lines 3-8, 14-20, and 33-34, which Davies thinks were an addition by Mark. We are thus left with the following quotes from Thomas in Mark:

  • Mk 4:3-8 cf. Logion 9, in Mk 4:5-6 this is extended somewhat, in the typical explanatory interpolations which we've seen elsewhere, but not so as to change the meaning dramatically.
  • Variations of the ears to hear theme are in Logia 8, 21, 24, 63, (65), 96. They occur here in 4:9, and 4:23, and Davies treats them as a "traditional admonition," and there is no evident way that their meaning is construed much differently from the original, although in Christianity statements like this get terribly abused later, since they become the fuel for proselytizing first, and religious wars later, when it gets more strident. There the normal mechanism of projection is hard at work, and people don't use the statements in the introspective way which is still the dominant mode of the Thomas text, but it is turned against others, in a proselytizing and judgmental way. (Note: Pursah's version skips Logion 65)
  • Mark 4:10-13 is related to Thomas Logion 62, and the Markan construction per se does not necessitate the later Christian misuse of the passage, which increasingly becomes fodder for the obfuscation of religion, covering up all seemingly unexplainable issues as "mysteries of the faith," as opposed to Jesus' original intention of communicating in a way that could only be validated by experience, which is really the essence of the meaning of mysterion also in the Greek mystery religions, which were essentially directed to experience of the mystery, in the full awareness that words alone were not enough. In Christian parlance the mysteries of the faith are glib constructs to explain away that which seems at odds with accepted perceptions, they are a way for theology to gloss over the seemingly unlikelier aspects of the faith, exactly because it confines itself to mental constructs, and avoids the experiential aspect which is so decisively important.
  • Davies also notes that Mark labels many of the materials he borrows from Thomas Logia as "parables," which connects exactly to the observation above, namely that parables point with words to the experience of something that will reveal itself to us only if we do follow Jesus in fact, and will forever remain a closed book, if we confine ourselves to talking about doing it, as most religion does.
  • Next interestingly in 4:21 is a parallel to Logion 33, which Pursah rejects for her version, and which material evidently occurs in the sources in several variations. In Christianity this type of a saying proved conducive to fueling the fires of proselytizing.
  • Then comes Mk 4:22, an apparent adaptation from Logion 5, and the latter part of 6 (which Pursah disallows). There is nothing here that denotes a pronounce shift in interpretation.
  • Mk. 4:25/Logion 41 have nothing particular to offer they are nearly identical. I can't vouch for how this has been interpreted...
  • Mk. 4:26-29 Would correspond to Logion 21, which Pursah rejects. It is also a quotation from Joel 3:13 as Davies points out, and so it may be one thing that was put in Jesus' mouth for an editorial  purpose.
  • Mk. 4:30-32 parallels Logion 20 closely. Most meanings are obvious by association. One meaning that was probably not intended was the collection of vast real estate holdings.
While in some points we saw here a shift of meaning towards what we might regard as a more Christian mold, none of it was as dramatic perhaps as some of the examples I covered earlier, related to the first Davies article, where there was so much editorial around the sayings that it clearly shifted their meaning in a specific direction. In general it is simply interesting to see how bits and pieces from other traditions are woven into a somewhat coherent narrative by Mark. This stuff just makes a living tradition like this come to life, if you contemplate it a bit.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Whatever became of Thomas?

Here is a video from Gary Renard's Happy Dream Cruise...

Enjoy. Gary at one point was talking about making a movie as a counter point to Mel Gibson's S&M drama about Jesus, to show what a wonderful sense of humor Jesus had. It hasn't happened yet, but here at least you get the tone of the Cruise we just did.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Stevan Davies on Thomas Sayings in Mark, Part II, Unit 2

Stevan Davies' 2nd article on the transition from Thomas to Mark focuses on the section Mark 3:20-35, and in it he sees Logia 35, 44, and common themes with 61, 64,  and 99, and then some usage that is present in 57, 76, 96. 97, 98, 113.

To make it easy, I'm quoting the Markan passage here from the NIV:

Mark 3:20-35 (New International Version)

Jesus and Beelzebub
 20Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. 21When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, "He is out of his mind."
 22And the teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem said, "He is possessed by Beelzebub[a]! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons."
 23So Jesus called them and spoke to them in parables: "How can Satan drive out Satan? 24If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. 26And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come. 27In fact, no one can enter a strong man's house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man. Then he can rob his house. 28I tell you the truth, all the sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven them. 29But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin."
 30He said this because they were saying, "He has an evil spirit."
Jesus' Mother and Brothers
 31Then Jesus' mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. 32A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, "Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you."  33"Who are my mother and my brothers?" he asked.
 34Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, "Here are my mother and my brothers! 35Whoever does God's will is my brother and sister and mother."

Funnily enough I remember one thing about this passage in relation to Christianity, or particularly Roman Catholicism. My ex-wife got upset with me one day when I made reference to Jesus's siblings, convinced that I was making it up. I showed her this passage and other similar passages. Later we found out that someone wrote a whole book about facts from the Bible that were generally suppressed in Catholic teachings. All of which was possible of course particularly pre Vatican II, because studying the Bible generally was not "done" in that environment. A lot has changed since then, and the RC crowd has now joined the Protestants in the search for the "historical" Jesus, which the Protestants originally, in the 19th century conceived as their best defense against the catholics playing footloose and fancy free with the "facts" of the Bible.
Davies traces the opening passages (through 3:26) of the above section to the Q tradition, and sees essentially Thomas quotes after that, starting with 3:27, Logion 35 (skipped in the Pursah version); 3:28-29, Logion 44 (skipped in the Pursah version); 3:31-35, Logion 99 (Present in the Pursah version). In other words, right away we have a strong hint here that some of the sources may be dubious from Pursah's standpoint, as she skips the first quotes on which this is based. We may also notice however that here way of expressing her views on the matter is rather mild, and she never does say that none of the other sayings are even partially authentic, but in essence she's saying there are too many corruptions with them, but these 70/71 in the collection she feels she can vouch for, based on her recollection.
While we once again see how the narrative process is at work using various known elements to weave its story, this passage actually does make sense if you read it the right way. Speaking strictly from the standpoint of a Course student, the Markan passage may make sense on many levels. The first is the accusation of Jesus being possessed by the devil, which if you think about it, really finds its corollary in the notion in the Course that to the ego the guiltless are guilty, although that relates more specifically to the scene in front of Pontius Pilate, but I'll quote it here in full:
Much of the ego's strange behavior is directly attributable to its definition of guilt. To the ego, the guiltless are guilty. Those who do not attack are its "enemies" because, by not valuing its interpretation of salvation, they are in an excellent position to let it go. They have approached the darkest and deepest cornerstone in the ego's foundation, and while the ego can withstand your raising all else to question, it guards this one secret with its life, for its existence depends on keeping this secret. So it is this secret that we must look upon, for the ego cannot protect you against truth, and in its presence the ego is dispelled. (ACIM:T-13.II.4)
The whole point here is that from the Course's point of view Satan or Beelzebub are understandable projections, personifications of the ego thought itself, and it's most basic form of defense IS projection, accusing the other of what it itself does. Thus also the ego IS the house divided against itself, for at the most abstract level it is the thought that the separation of God (splitting off from God, respectively "dividing" itself from God) is possible, which then gives rise to the phenomenon of the split mind, which not only splits itself off from God, but completely identifies itself with the split off part to the point of forgetting its immortal self as the Son of God completely, except for the quiet presence of the Holy Spirit, which is always still present in part of our mind, regardless of how much we try to repress and ignore it. And of course the ego's house will not stand, for the ego thought and all that it makes up subsequently by definition live on borrowed time, they are not the creations of love of our eternal, immortal Self, they are the substitute relaties which are manifested, projected from the split mind, and nothing is permanent about them.
We should not have to wonder why Pursah would have rejected Logia 35 and 44 from her collection, as 35 is murky to say the least, and 44 is the diametrical opposite of what Jesus taught, and so certainly does not make any sense being in the collection. This is one of the hallmarks of Christianity, that it did incorporate a lot of corruptions, because it is completely reflective of the taught system of the wrong mind, and so it continues the mistakes of the Old Testament tradition, in which God is alternately loving and hateful. Jesus on the other hand represents oneness, and a thoughtsystem that is entirely consistent, because it reflects nothing else but oneness.
The final statement, reflecting Logion 99, makes complete sense, and acts here as the punch line. In Course terms, what Jesus is advocating here is the point that special relationships are of the ego, be they family/heredity, or any other, and that the Holy Relationship as the Course calls it is the way in which we are joined with our brothers, and the only way in which we can join with our brothers is in the mind, and never with the body. And of course, where two or three are together in my name, there I am in their midst (again: in the mind), or as the Course puts it:
You who are now the bringer of salvation have the function of bringing light to darkness. The darkness in you has been brought to light. Carry it back to darkness, from the holy instant to which you brought it. We are made whole in our desire to make whole. Let not time worry you, for all the fear that you and your brother experience is really past. Time has been readjusted to help us do, together, what your separate pasts would hinder. You have gone past fear, for no two minds can join in the desire for love without love's joining them.  (ACIM:T-18.III.7)

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Be Passersby Says Logion 42

I was reminded of this again today, because of some reflections by my friend Annelies, who wrote something on her (Dutch) blog about a realization of how simple things really are. More and more it becomes evident that the only human mistake is to take ourselves too seriously, or rather seriously at all, instead of just cracking ourselves up, which would resolve things soon enough. So the admonition "Be passersby" ends up being the perfect antidote to all that. Nite all.