Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Reciprocity Of Giving And Receiving

    To learn that giving and receiving are the same has special usefulness, because it can be tried so easily and seen as true. And when this special case has proved it always works, in every circumstance where it is tried, the thought behind it can be generalized to other areas of doubt and double vision. And from there it will extend, and finally arrive at the one Thought which underlies them all.
    Today we practice with the special case of giving and receiving. We will use this simple lesson in the obvious because it has results we cannot miss. To give is to receive. Today we will attempt to offer peace to everyone, and see how quickly peace returns to us. Light is tranquility, and in that peace is vision given us, and we can see.
    So we begin the practice periods with the instruction for today, and say:

To give and to receive are one in truth.
I will receive what I am giving now.

Thus in this world, the world of the ego, we cannot understand this, for if I give you a chocolate bar, you have it and I don't. The content of the gift (which is what the Course always looks at) is guilt however, for the ego is always bargaining. We give a chocolate bar with a smile, but secretly we enter a debit entry into the accounts between us, and you owe me one now. Just wait till I give you two chocolate bars... This is the purpose of this world of specifics, and this is why the Course says: The world was made as an attack on God. (ACIM:W-pII.3.2:1) For the world of specifics seeks to defy the law of the spirit, and sin, guilt, and fear shatter the peace of Heaven. But in the world of spirit, the concept of a gift is reciprocal, because it is all about the content (of love) and not about form, and a thought is strengthened by sharing it.

This reciprocity of giving and receiving in the world of spirit is the central them of Logion 88. In my book I drew attention to an important passage in the workbook, which clarifies this in speaking about the difference between the messengers of the world (the mail man, UPS etc.), and the messengers of Heaven:

There is one major difference in the role of Heaven's messengers, which sets them off from those the world appoints. The messages that they deliver are intended first for them. And it is only as they can accept them for themselves that they become able to bring them further, and to give them everywhere that they were meant to be. Like earthly messengers, they did not write the messages they bear, but they become their first receivers in the truest sense, receiving to prepare themselves to give.
    An earthly messenger fulfills his role by giving all his messages away. The messengers of God perform their part by their acceptance of His messages as for themselves, and show they understand the messages by giving them away. They choose no roles that are not given them by His authority. And so they gain by every message that they give away.  (ACIM:W-154.6-7) 

Thus in the world of spirit and of the miracle, there is total reciprocity, for love flows through, it expands as it is shared. Every unforgiveness is a block to that flow, every miracle is spiritual Drano, which opens the channel. And the experience is one of choosing love, and simply experiencing that you yourself experience love whenever you for-give. So the experience is one of flow, that's why people so often feel that all I had to do was get out of the way, so that you can truly give, and therefore receive, for this experience of being in the flow, is a gift to yourself.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

On The Power Of The Mind

    Everyone experiences fear. Yet it would take very little right thinking to realize why fear occurs. Few appreciate the real power of the mind, and no one remains fully aware of it all the time. However, if you hope to spare yourself from fear there are some things you must realize, and realize fully. The mind is very powerful, and never loses its creative force. It never sleeps. Every instant it is creating. It is hard to recognize that thought and belief combine into a power surge that can literally move mountains. It appears at first glance that to believe such power about yourself is arrogant, but that is not the real reason you do not believe it. You prefer to believe that your thoughts cannot exert real influence because you are actually afraid of them. This may allay awareness of the guilt, but at the cost of perceiving the mind as impotent. If you believe that what you think is ineffectual you may cease to be afraid of it, but you are hardly likely to respect it. There are no idle thoughts. All thinking produces form at some level. (ACIM:T2.VI.9)
With the above in mind, read Logion 85, and appreciate what Jesus is telling us there:
J said, "Adam came from great power and great wealth, but he was not worthy of you. For had he been worthy, he would not have tasted death."
Who then, is Adam in our story? The primordial man in the Biblical context, and therefore the archetypical first actor on the stage of the theater of time and space. In the context of the metaphysical creation sequence as per the account in A Course in Miracles, the four steps in which "the impossible" happened are:
  1. The "tiny, mad idea" of the separation, i.e. the very notion that it would be possible to exist separate from our Source in God
  2. The repression of the memory of Heaven, or the Holy Spirit,
  3. The affirmation of the ego as a separate identity, which makes the separation from God real, but is bothered by guilt feelings over spoiling the peace of Heaven, which in turn is "solved" by the next step, projecting a world of the body and time and space, in which we can exist mindlessly, not bothered by our bad memories.
  4. The Big Bang in this view then is the projection on the physical level of the separation thought in the mind, so that the body, living out its "story" in this world of time and space, is the embodiment of the thought of individuality. The archetype of this step is Adam.
The important thing in this process of the making of the world of time and space, is that steps 1-3 are all abstract, and occur in the mind, and that with step number 4 we accomplish the apparently complete identification with the individual existence of the false self or "ego" which now sees itself as one among a gazillion others, who completely forgot that he came from the mind which thought all of this up, which is therefore infinitely powerful, while within our limited awareness as individuals we have only very limited talents with which we try to survive in this world for a while.

Seen in this context, this saying states that we are immortal spirit in truth, and in fact, had Adam remembered who he was (as immortal spirit), he would have remembered his reality in Heaven as spirit, and thus known that he was immortal spirit also, being the Son of God. As such the statement is a reminder that we shortchange ourselves, and cheat ourselves of the reality we truly are by identifying as sons of Adam instead of Sons of God, or more precisely the Son of God. So our only mistake lies in our identifying ourselves with our role on the stage, instead of with the mind who we really are. So we've become actors on the stage of our own dream, and forgot we're dreaming the dream, and we completely identify with the panic and excitement of the actor in the story, forgetting we are the author of the story, and that we are the Son of God, only having a nightmare because we took the tiny, mad idea of the separation seriously for a while.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Not What It's Cracked Up To Be

Logion 80 is a mind bender, unless you understand the frame of reference of the teachings of Jesus in a comprehensive way, which means from the point of view of the whole thought system. For without that, individual statements can seem odd or strange, contradictory or plain idiotic. I also view that, just like Zen koans, as intended in the exact same spirit of inviting the reader to let go of their habitual judgments and views, but rather to accept a new challenge that can get us off of our old dead-end, and on to a new track, the Jesus track (or Krishna, or Buddha, or Quan Yin, or the Holy Spirit), but in any case the track out of the labyrinth and home to Heaven with our Father, where nice kids go to play.

The dead-end is the world of the body, the world of time and space, of limitations, of locality, of specificity, and the world of our false self, or the ego. In the words of Albert Einstein we (as would-be individuals) are non-local beings, having a local experience. We are eternal spirit, having an experience in time and space in which death seems very real and inevitable, but just like playing a role on stage, while it is helpful to really identify with the character, it becomes a bit of a problem if you end up thinking that you are the character. Shakespeare obviously grasped this in his "All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players," etc.  Another favorite expression of it comes from the famous lines from The Tempest:

Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits, and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp'd tow'rs, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on; and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.
(Shakespeare: The Tempest Act 4, scene 1, 148–158)

Such are the dead-end dream lives we seem to live in this world, and if that is who we think we are, there is no hope. We live "On borrowed time" (Never sounded so heart-rending as in the classical rendition of the J. Geils Band), for death is invariably the end, sooner or later. On the other hand, if we really come to understand the illusory nature of the body, that it is merely a perception problem and a role we play, not a reality we are, then we immediately see through the whole world as well, and the "world is not worthy of us" at that point, because this world really is not our home, and becomes irrelevant, so that it fades into the mist, once the memory of our true home in Heaven is restored to us. In all then, I think Jesus speaks tongue-in-cheek in this logion, when he uses the phrase "...of that one the world is not worthy," and he was a punster in several of the Thomas logia, as he was also experienced by Helen Schucman and Bill Thetford during the time when they took down A Course In Miracles. What he means is not only that the world is beneath us at that point, but:

Until forgiveness is complete, the world does have a purpose. It becomes the home in which forgiveness is born, and where it grows and becomes stronger and more all-embracing. Here is it nourished, for here it is needed. A gentle Savior, born where sin was made and guilt seemed real. Here is His home, for here there is need of Him indeed. He brings the ending of the world with Him. It is His Call God's teachers answer, turning to Him in silence to receive His Word. The world will end when all things in it have been rightly judged by His judgment. The world will end with the benediction of holiness upon it. When not one thought of sin remains, the world is over. It will not be destroyed nor attacked nor even touched. It will merely cease to seem to be. (ACIM:M-12:2)

Sunday, September 27, 2009

This World Is Not Our Home

Come home. You have not found your happiness in foreign places and in alien forms that have no meaning to you, though you sought to make them meaningful. This world is not where you belong. You are a stranger here. But it is given you to find the means whereby the world no longer seems to be a prison house or jail for anyone. (ACIM:W-200.4)

And then there's the saying in Logion 86, another "prequel" to the New Testament (Mt. 8:20, Lk 9:58, and with apparent roots in the Q sayings collection also), which reads:
J said, "Foxes have their dens and birds have their nests, but human beings have no place to lay down and rest."
The whole point then is that waking up, as Jesus in essence calls up on us to do, with his exhortations to "follow him" to a "Kingdom not of this world," means waking up first to the fact that this world is not our home, and that there must be "another way" to live. Simply put, as long as we think that our lives work, and are tolerable, we are not motivated to go look for an alternative, so Jesus always addresses the dissatisfaction with the ways of the earth in us with the assurance that there is indeed another way. He is not a new age guru who is interested in helping to make the world a better place. Once we commit to following him, the world does serve a purpose again:
Until forgiveness is complete, the world does have a purpose. It becomes the home in which forgiveness is born, and where it grows and becomes stronger and more all-embracing. Here is it nourished, for here it is needed. A gentle Savior, born where sin was made and guilt seemed real. Here is His home, for here there is need of Him indeed. He brings the ending of the world with Him. It is His Call God's teachers answer, turning to Him in silence to receive His Word. The world will end when all things in it have been rightly judged by His judgment. The world will end with the benediction of holiness upon it. When not one thought of sin remains, the world is over. It will not be destroyed nor attacked nor even touched. It will merely cease to seem to be. (ACIM:M-14.2)

In short the world is merely a perception problem of which we suffer as long as we mistakenly take the "tiny, mad idea" of the separation seriously, and it is our own discomfort in this dream existence, which inevitably wakes us up from it to the realization that this world is not our home and that we are finally willing to deal with, and reluctantly entertain, the possibility that Jesus was right and we were wrong. Jesus' teachings sound the sound of cognitive dissonance, to the point that wakes us up through the incongruities of our seeming experience, so he can lead us out of the desert of the ego, and back to the reality of Heaven.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Present Answer

Logion 79 works with contrast to demonstrate the difference between the ego thought system and that of the Holy Spirit. Between determining meaning and value in the present from the past and living fully in the present. In a way it anticipates the theme of Logion 99, which also uses family relationships to show it is not the past that matters or determines who we are, neither what we did, nor what anyone else might have done, but the only thing that matters is "to hear the word of the father," and to keep it, right now.

It matters not what you may or may not have done in the world, there are no merit points for that, but living the will of God is the answer. This is a really radical teaching, and one that we all have a great deal of trouble with, for the conditioning goes very deep of looking into where we came from who our parents were, etc. all of which is about building up the meaning of the ego, and never being present in the present. Doing God's Will, is all about putting him first and ourselves second, and doing so, there is no need for our interpretation (from the past), so we can just be who we are. Here is the beautiful text of Lesson 328:

    What seems to be the second place is first, for all things we perceive are upside down until we listen to the Voice for God. It seems that we will gain autonomy but by our striving to be separate, and that our independence from the rest of God's creation is the way in which salvation is obtained. Yet all we find is sickness, suffering and loss and death. This is not what our Father wills for us, nor is there any second to His Will. To join with His is but to find our own. 6 And since our will is His, it is to Him that we must go to recognize our will.

    There is no will but Yours. And I am glad that nothing I imagine contradicts what You would have me be. It is Your Will that I be wholly safe, eternally at peace. And happily I share that Will which You, my Father, gave as part of me. (ACIM:W-328.1-2)

Friday, September 25, 2009

All or Nothing

Healing and Atonement are not related; they are identical. There is no order of difficulty in miracles because there are no degrees of Atonement. It is the one complete concept possible in this world, because it is the source of a wholly unified perception. Partial Atonement is a meaningless idea, just as special areas of hell in Heaven are inconceivable. Accept Atonement and you are healed. Atonement is the Word of God. Accept His Word and what remains to make sickness possible? Accept His Word and every miracle has been accomplished. To forgive is to heal. The teacher of God has taken accepting the Atonement for himself as his only function. What is there, then, he cannot heal? What miracle can be withheld from him? (ACIM:T-22.1)
Simply put then there's only one job to be done, and that is to accept the Atonement - which completely cancels out the ego's "tiny, mad idea" of the separation. The path of forgiveness which Jesus teaches thus is nothing more than the practice that gets us there from within our time-bound experience, and gives us experiential glimpses of our immortal reality as spirit in eternity, and it is those experiences, the miracles, which can convey more than words can ever hold, so that increasingly the very same words open up, since having had the experience the real meaning of what Jesus taught becomes readily evident. Many people throughout the ages have known that experiences, and in our own time teachers such as Eckhart Tolle and Jeff Foster have also reported this experience of suddenly understanding the words of Jesus on a whole different level, because they now understand him based on their own inner experience. So if accepting the Atonement, i.e. total and complete forgiveness, is our one function, then Logion 76 becomes understandable as a reminder of that, it says (as always in the Pursah version from chapter 7 of Gary Renard's Your Immortal Reality:

J said, "God's Divine Rule is like a merchant who had a supply of merchandise and then found a pearl. That merchant was prudent; he sold the merchandise and bought the single pearl for himself. So also with you, see the treasure that is unfailing, that is enduring, where no moth comes to eat and no worm destroys."
Forgiveness and the Atonement are also not perishable goods, they are our savings account in eternity, so while we practice forgiveness here, everything is saved up for us until our full memory of Heaven is restored to us, and we can claim our full inheritance, by waking up. Again in the words of the Course:

All your past except its beauty is gone, and nothing is left but a blessing. I have saved all your kindnesses and every loving thought you ever had. I have purified them of the errors that hid their light, and kept them for you in their own perfect radiance. They are beyond destruction and beyond guilt. They came from the Holy Spirit within you, and we know what God creates is eternal. You can indeed depart in peace because I have loved you as I loved myself. You go with my blessing and for my blessing. Hold it and share it, that it may always be ours. I place the peace of God in your heart and in your hands, to hold and share. The heart is pure to hold it, and the hands are strong to give it. We cannot lose. My judgment is as strong as the wisdom of God, in Whose Heart and Hands we have our being. His quiet children are His blessed Sons. The Thoughts of God are with you. (ACIM:T-5.IV.82-15)
So what he promises here, is that he issues HS Green Stamps (as opposed to S&H Green Stamps at the supermarket), and he is pasting everyone of them in your little savingsbook, until you are ready to come and claim the award. As a side note, we might notice that this logion finds a close parallel in Logion 8.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Holy Relationship

The surface traits of God's teachers are not at all alike. They do not look alike to the body's eyes, they come from vastly different backgrounds, their experiences of the world vary greatly, and their superficial "personalities" are quite distinct. Nor, at the beginning stages of their functioning as teachers of God, have they as yet acquired the deeper characteristics that will establish them as what they are. God gives special gifts to His teachers, because they have a special role in His plan for Atonement. Their specialness is, of course, only temporary; set in time as a means of leading out of time. These special gifts, born in the holy relationship toward which the teaching-learning situation is geared, become characteristic of all teachers of God who have advanced in their own learning. In this respect they are all alike. (ACIM:M-4.1)

That's how the Course speaks of the holy relationship, which is the Holy Spirit's answer to the special relationships our ego favors. Simply put the ego's special relationships are geared to running away from home, they are the pacifiers (addictions) that help us forget our home in Heaven, and give us the temporary satisfactions and distractions which will keep us rooted in the world. The holy relationship is born to us when we put our special relationships in the hand of the Holy Spirit, so that they can serve as a classroom for our way home. So every special relationship becomes a doorway - and as in Roman mythology above every doorway symbolically is the double head of Janus, one face facing towards time, and the other facing eternity, and thus symbolizing how every situation represents a choice opportunity.

Logion 75 has us standing at the doorway, and it refers to the fact that only those who are alone will enter "the bridal suite," which is the expression in traditional literature that corresponds to the Course's notion of the holy relationship. Those who are alone are those who no longer invest in and depend on special relationships, because they are aware now that there is only one of us, the Son of God, and they are thus learning to make the choice for eternity, for the Holy Spirit, so that every situation becomes a classroom in which the Holy Spirit can teach us to find our way home. And the way to choose the Holy Spirit is always by not choosing the ego, which is to say practicing forgiveness, and using every opportunity to let another block to "love's presence" be removed from our mind.

The corollary to this is the notion in the Course that the world was made as an attack on God (ACIM:W-pII3.2:1), and all our special relationships are the ego's tools to deny the oneness of the sonship, and thus to give up our investment in them, and letting go of the specialness is felt by the ego as being alone, but it is really the return to the oneness of the sonship, the oneness of the mind. And the experience of seeing the face of Christ in our brother, is the restoration of this oneness to our awareness. And thus is every relationship no longer special but simply an expression of the Holy Relationship.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Our Natural Inheritance

The introduction to A Course In Miracles contains the following wonderful lines:

The course does not aim at teaching the meaning of love, for that is beyond what can be taught. It does aim, however, at removing the blocks to the awareness of love's presence, which is your natural inheritance. (ACIM:In:1:6-7)
Logion 70 always makes me think of the above line. Removing the blocks to love's presence, will bring it out in our lives, and that will literally save us. But as long as we fail to do the forgiveness work that will remove the "blocks" and bring out the love, we are stuck in the mire of the ego thought system, and it will kill us, quite literally. Jesus, or the Holy Spirit is the only option that offers life, for all else - the whole ego thought system - is little else but death, and the ego literally wants to kill us. So this saying is short and sweet and to the point, and should sound almost familiar to anyone studying Jesus's teachings in the Course.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

All or Nothing?

Logion 67 strikes the same note as the previous one, namely that the two thought systems, that of the ego and the world, the state in which we imagine ourselves separated from God, and the thought system of Jesus and the Holy Spirit, are mutually exclusive. Here the point is simply the complete emptiness of the ego thought system.

So if we know it "all," all there is to know in the world, we will still be empty inside, and living in the ego's sense of scarcity and lack - the Logion says "completely lacking."  The key thing of course is that Jesus makes this statement because, as long as we consider ourselves "rich" in terms of the world, be it knowledge, relationships, possessions, etc., we will not be motivated to change our mind at all. We are then stuck, clinging to the things of the world. So the first step towards getting ready to seek "another way" which Jesus offers, is to realize the emptiness inside, and that the world really had nothing to offer. So this saying and others like it, could be the first step.

The riches of the world are really best summed up in the old Tom Lehrer song, "Smut" when he sings "More, more, more and still not satisfied," for any amount of what the world has to offer still leaves that gaping hole of emptiness inside.

And here is how A Course in Miracles expresses this mutual exclusivity of the world and the Kingdom:

Son of God, be not content with nothing! What is not real cannot be seen and has no value. God could not offer His Son what has no value, nor could His Son receive it. You were redeemed the instant you thought you had deserted Him. Everything you made has never been, and is invisible because the Holy Spirit does not see it. Yet what He does see is yours to behold, and through His vision your perception is healed. You have made invisible the only truth that this world holds. Valuing nothing, you have sought nothing. By making nothing real to you, you have seen it. But it is not there. And Christ is invisible to you because of what you have made visible to yourself. (ACIM:T-12.VIII.6)

Monday, September 21, 2009

Changing the Purpose

Logion 66 is another one of what Pursah called "prequels" to the NT, sayings in Thomas which were clearly later quoted by the writers of the "canonical" gospels, who wrote some twenty or more years after the Thomas gospel. The same idea comes back in several places in the NT, so we have some immediate familiarity with it.

The whole idea running through all of this material is the central notion of changing our mind, metanoia in the Greek of the New Testament. Clearly, to follow Jesus to the Kingdom not of this world, entails a completely different mindset, thought system even, so what's useful in this world is useless in the Kingdom and vice versa. We seek the world as long as we're running away from home, all the while building defenses to keep God and Jesus away from us, and those defensive structures are of no use to us in the Kingdom. Jesus on the other hand says, give me the stone you rejected in building your castle in this world, for that is the cornerstone, once we start on the way home. In other words, the things that were of no use in building up the ego's defenses, are now extremely useful as our purpose has changed. This same underlying theme of an either/or choice and a radically different purpose is reflected in different ways in many Thomas Logia, e.g 89, 100, 107, 110, and many others. It is also a familiar theme in A Course in Miracles, as the thought systems of the Holy Spirit and the ego are mutually exclusive.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Taking Care of Business

In terms of concepts from A Course In Miracles, the parable of Logion 63 is definitely speaking in terms of level two, the level of the world and duality. It addresses the ego's schemes for ensuring its own survival, ultimately ensuring that the future is a repeat of the past, and ending up missing out on being present in the eternal now.

The cute story line of the rich man who took care of business, and most importantly, took care of tomorrow, and then died the next instant, makes the point in a very graphic way. This is certainly a very central point of Jesus's teaching as we also know it from the Course. The ego's strategy keeps an imaginary past in memory in the present (so that I'm never really present, for to be really in the present would be to be in eternity), and reacts from those past emotions to who and what we meet today, thereby setting up a future that becomes a repeat of the past in a different form, and in effect ensuring the results it is seeking to prevent. So we are shadowboxing while we think we're taking care of businesses, or fighting windmills, à la Don Quijote. The following passage from the Course highlights how the ego's sleight of hand works:

    The ego has a strange notion of time, and it is with this notion that your questioning might well begin. The ego invests heavily in the past, and in the end believes that the past is the only aspect of time that is meaningful. Remember that its emphasis on guilt enables it to ensure its continuity by making the future like the past, and thus avoiding the present. By the notion of paying for the past in the future, the past becomes the determiner of the future, making them continuous without an intervening present. For the ego regards the present only as a brief transition to the future, in which it brings the past to the future by interpreting the present in past terms.
    "Now" has no meaning to the ego. The present merely reminds it of past hurts, and it reacts to the present as if it were the past. The ego cannot tolerate release from the past, and although the past is over, the ego tries to preserve its image by responding as if it were present. It dictates your reactions to those you meet in the present from a past reference point, obscuring their present reality. In effect, if you follow the ego's dictates you will react to your brother as though he were someone else, and this will surely prevent you from recognizing him as he is. And you will receive messages from him out of your own past because, by making it real in the present, you are forbidding yourself to let it go. You thus deny yourself the message of release that every brother offers you now.
    The shadowy figures from the past are precisely what you must escape. They are not real, and have no hold over you unless you bring them with you. They carry the spots of pain in your mind, directing you to attack in the present in retaliation for a past that is no more. And this decision is one of future pain. Unless you learn that past pain is an illusion, you are choosing a future of illusions and losing the many opportunities you could find for release in the present. The ego would preserve your nightmares, and prevent you from awakening and understanding they are past. Would you recognize a holy encounter if you are merely perceiving it as a meeting with your own past? For you would be meeting no one, and the sharing of salvation, which makes the encounter holy, would be excluded from your sight. The Holy Spirit teaches that you always meet yourself, and the encounter is holy because you are. The ego teaches that you always encounter your past, and because your dreams were not holy, the future cannot be, and the present is without meaning. (ACIM:T-13.IV.4-6)

Conversely, to see "the face of Christ" in our brothers, in everyone we meet, requires that we forgive completely and accept the Atonement for ourselves, so that we finally can be present in the present, and not building special relationships based on our projections, but joining with our brothers in that eternal present, and letting the Holy Spirit direct our steps. The story of Logion 63 is a stark reminder of the total pointlessness of the ego's strategies, for as the modern saying goes, "you can't take it with you," and in the example of the rich man ensuring his riches into the future, only to die the next day, this is demonstrated rather graphically. The point is that the ego really robs us of the present, which is the only time there is, and it substitutes its illusions.

The "other" choice is portrayed in the Course as follows:

    When you come to the place where the branch in the road is quite apparent, you cannot go ahead. You must go either one way or the other. For now if you go straight ahead, the way you went before you reached the branch, you will go nowhere. The whole purpose of coming this far was to decide which branch you will take now. The way you came no longer matters. It can no longer serve. No one who reaches this far can make the wrong decision, although he can delay. And there is no part of the journey that seems more hopeless and futile than standing where the road branches, and not deciding on which way to go.
    It is but the first few steps along the right way that seem hard, for you have chosen, although you still may think you can go back and make the other choice. This is not so. A choice made with the power of Heaven to uphold it cannot be undone. Your way is decided. There will be nothing you will not be told, if you acknowledge this.
    And so you and your brother stand, here in this holy place, before the veil of sin that hangs between you and the face of Christ. Let it be lifted! Raise it together with your brother, for it is but a veil that stands between you. Either you or your brother alone will see it as a solid block, nor realize how thin the drapery that separates you now. Yet it is almost over in your awareness, and peace has reached you even here, before the veil. Think what will happen after. The Love of Christ will light your face, and shine from it into a darkened world that needs the light. And from this holy place He will return with you, not leaving it nor you. You will become His messenger, returning Him unto Himself. (ACIM:T-22.IV.1-3)

All of these issues are so primordial that we recognize them immediately, and the image of Logion 63 is a classic. The alternative that's posed by Jesus's teachings invites us, not by blindly accepting his authority, but by following him, in trusting the steps he shows, and validating through our own experience that it works.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The End of Ambivalence

One fundamental confusion in which the ego keeps us trapped is that the thoughts we think we think are not our real thoughts. (c.f. ACIM:W-10, W-15) They are the ripples on the surface of a mind that thinks it is now an ego, and has forgotten anything else but the surface, and has no more inkling of the vast body of water underneath the surface, which is nonetheless there. As the Course puts it, we have become mindless by choosing the ego. So we think that the deliberations of what the Buddhist calls the "monkey mind" are really thoughts, when all they are is a cover over thoughts, to distract us, and make sure we don't remember we have a mind.

Logion 62 proposes the alternative. Here Jesus says that he discloses his "mysteries" to those who are ready for them, and adds the exhortation, not to let the left hand know what the right hand is doing. What he means is not to engage in the ego's deliberations of "on the other hand," but rather to simply follow our "right hand" and follow Jesus, who thus can disclose his mysteries, because we have given up our reliance on the duality and ambivalence of the ego mind. We follow him onto the firm ground of the certainty of spirit, where there is no further ambivalence. His "mysteries" then also turn out not to be mysterious at all, once you realize that the only problem is that they make no sense in a dualistic world, but they do make sense if we come up to Jesus's level.

It is worthy of note that the world turns the table on Jesus with the notions of the mysteries of the faith, which are constructs that are designed to prevent us from inquiring into the true nature of things, and thus a protection of the ego thought system. The Course, and Jesus's teachings in general, work the opposite way, that by joining with him we will see through all the ego's shenanigans.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

What is Life?

Logion 59 speaks of "not putting off until tomorrow what you can do today" namely accepting the atonement for yourself.

The terminology this Logion uses - looking on "The Living One" is evocative, and more neutral than"Jesus," and yet more concrete than "the Holy Spirit," for the "Living One" surely is a good indication for Jesus who calls himself (in A Course in Miracles), the manifestation of the Holy Spirit. Here is what it says:

Look to the living One as long as you live. Otherwise, when you die and they try to see the living One, you will be unable to see.
This statement simply breaks the ego's spell of time and space by saying in effect, do not buy into the ego's strategy, which always is to have you think there's a future that will be better, and somehow that you can get tomorrow what you need. Jesus's point is that the only time to change your mind is in the now. Putting it off till tomorrow does only one thing, it ensures there will be more of the same. Thus, just like there is  "no life outside of Heaven," (ACIM), the only time to choose is now.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

On Forgiveness

Logion 58 is fascinating, because it put forgiveness center stage. The terms doe come up elsewhere in the Jesus literature, but it was not till modern times, in A Course in Miracles, that things really get rolling on the forgiveness front. The reason for this is made clear in Gary Renards's Book The Disappearance of the Universe, rather early on. There Pursah basically explains that within the development of the world, some of the explanation was not all that easy until after Shakespeare, and modern psychology, not to mention quantum mechanics and so on. She in fact makes the statement that it was more rewarding to follow Jesus in this lifetime, after A Course in Miracles, than it was 2000 years ago, for that reason. Ken Wapnick has frequently pointed out the same thing. Hence the explanation of forgiveness in the Course is so important.

In simple terms, what the forgiveness process of A Course in Miracles entails is a three step process, and it is not at all your grandfather's kind of forgiveness. The traditional notion of forgiveness is really the ego's arrogance, playing wolf in sheep's clothing, for it says I'm so much better (holier, saintlier) than you, I can afford to forgive you, so the whole blackjack game of passing the guilt around continues (read Dan Greenberg's How to be a Jewish mother, if you're in doubt as to how it works). So, contrary to the traditional ditty, it's really guilt that makes the world go round, and what the world calls "love" is really nothing but a cover over love and a way of making the other party feel guilty. And again, if in doubt, check out this scene on YouTube, in Divorce Court of TP Lucas and his wife Rashida Lucas, and the 2nd episode here. This story makes no sense, unless you begin to fathom the dynamics of guilt, and how relationships are forged around bonds of guilt and not of love. Being "too loving" can be impossible to take, if you have a strong sense of guilt, so that love can be very threatening, which is also the theme of Dan Greenberg's gem of a book. So, for the person with lousy self-esteem (strong guilt feelings), love can be threatening, etc. Traditional forgiveness in this context is just another form of being "too loving," for it shoves the guilt back at the other person, and it is an attack. Again, this is a game of blackjack, and the last remaining holder of the guilt (black jack) loses.

Forgiveness as Jesus means it is different, and with the in depth explanation of it in A Course in Miracles -- and some people have referred to this as Quantum Forgiveness -- it becomes clear why in Logion 58, Jesus says that those who forgive, have "found life," for "life" is not this soap opera of resentments from the past which are artificially kept alive, and which we call "my life." Jesus's brand of forgiveness involves an understanding that we can never be upset at a fact, but only at an interpretation of, or an emotion about, a fact. Further, what is required, is an understanding, at least a beginning glimpse of the mechanism of guilt, and how we're all constantly accusing each other in some way, shape or form for the ontological guilt which results from the fact of taking ourselves too seriously, as in thinking that we exist. Ever since then we're engaged in this soap opera which we call life, where we pass the guilt around. But at some point you may begin to sense that you're really accusing the other of something that you are secretly blaming yourself for, perhaps in a different way. And it dawns on us sometimes by the time we begin to catch ourselves in certain repeating patterns in our lives. The woman who had seven abusive relationships in a row, finally goes to see a therapist, who helps her start to see that she picked them herself, so that she needs to focus on changing herself, not on fixing them, for that only sets her up to repeat the pattern, and so on... So, while the ego is always self-righteous about its position, forgiveness begins when we become willing to doubt if we were "right:"

  1. Thus the first step of forgiveness is to wonder in the words of the Course: "Would I accuse myself of this?" This way, we stop projecting and start wondering about our own part in the situation.
  2. Looking at the situation with Jesus or the Holy Spirit (or whoever works for you in that role), which means to overlook it, see it for what it is without judgment, for the "judgment" of Jesus and the Holy Spirit is total love - nothing happened, just a silly mistake, which you can let go now.
  3. To let the situation go in the hands of the Holy Spirit, and wait until you know what is the most loving thing to do, which will often be nothing, until you are sure of what you should do.
Here is how the Course says it:

    There is a very simple way to find the door to true forgiveness, and perceive it open wide in welcome. When you feel that you are tempted to accuse someone of sin in any form, do not allow your mind to dwell on what you think he did, for that is self-deception. Ask instead, "Would I accuse myself of doing this?"
Thus will you see alternatives for choice in terms that render choosing meaningful, and keep your mind as free of guilt and pain as God Himself intended it to be, and as it is in truth. It is but lies that would condemn. In truth is innocence the only thing there is. Forgiveness stands between illusions and the truth; between the world you see and that which lies beyond; between the hell of guilt and Heaven's gate. (ACIM:W-134.9-10).
The introduction to the Course  speaks of the "obstacles to love's presence" which we need to clear up with forgiveness. Every unforgiveness is such an obstacle, a maladaptive self defense, which would be unnecessary, if only we remembered who we are as spirit, as the Son of God. Forgiveness is the process of letting down our defenses, stopping to defend our silly ego identity, and along with that the memory of our immortal reality is restored to us, so we return home to the awareness that what we really are is pure spirit, and the Son of God, and the Kingdom of God is then indeed our "natural inheritance," as the introduction to the Course calls it. Logion 58 speaks of having found "life," which is the same thing. In the words of the Course, "there is no life outside of Heaven." So when Jesus speaks of life, he is not talking about this shabby existence on this planet, but about the real life of the spirit, in Heaven.

There is no life outside of Heaven. Where God created life, there life must be. In any state apart from Heaven life is illusion. At best it seems like life; at worst, like death. Yet both are judgments on what is not life, equal in their inaccuracy and lack of meaning. Life not in Heaven is impossible, and what is not in Heaven is not anywhere. Outside of Heaven, only the conflict of illusion stands; senseless, impossible and beyond all reason, and yet perceived as an eternal barrier to Heaven. Illusions are but forms. Their content is never true. (ACIM:T-23.II.19)    

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Ego, A Maladaptive Solution To A Non-existent Problem

The phrase in the title is from Ken Wapnick, and it is one of my favorites from his repertoire.

You could go one step further and say that the ego creates the problem and offers solutions which ensure the continuity of the problem. Namely, at an abstract level, to follow the basic metaphysics of A Course In Miracles, all the ego is, is the thought of separation, the thought that I could be separate from my source in God. The Course calls that the "tiny, mad idea." Our only problem is that we think it is real, because we have identified ourselves with the thought, and dreamed up a life full of problems, all of which attest to the fact that I'm real, my problems are real, and there really is a world out there, with a past, present, and future, and in which I'm rooted in fear, because I think I've sinned in the past (after all I think I exist, so I offed God), so I feel guilty in the present (about my sin), and I'm afraid of the future - really because I'm now afraid of God.

Reading this little book by Jeff Foster, has been great, simply because he's coming in from a very different direction, and yet, the way he phrases himself is very recognizable for anyone who seriously studies the Course. Everyone's path is different, and that's fine, but it does help sometimes to see how things can reinforce one another. Unsurprisingly perhaps, Jeff Foster got a lot of inspiration from Krishnamurti, Sri Ramana Maharshi, en Sri Nisirgadatta Maharaj. Certainly the first two were very important pre-cursors to the Course. For one thing Helen and Bill were very fond of the work of Sri Ramana Maharshi, and Helen also was fond of the work of Sri Ramakrishna. This little book is so clear, it could really help a lot of people cut through the clutter of the endless shelves of pretend spiritual literature of today. It's all much simpler than anybody thinks, and in the end it all boils down to the insight that the solutions we come up with merely make real the problem we think we see, so it becomes a chicken and egg situation, and the only way out is to realize that the whole thing is a joke. A Course in Miracles may be a way out for some people, at least it seems to be, but nothing works for everybody. Many people are finding a lot of help with Eckhart Tolle at the moment. It all does not matter, whatever works for you is fine.

In terms of the Thomas Gospel there are numerous statements which chime in with the notion that we'll be happier if we stop trying to solve the nonexistent problems, which merely perpetuate the problem. We cannot choose the solution because that reaffirms the problem. And so the path in one form or another is one of undoing, since we are already there. Logion 1, right away implies the possibility of a pretty disruptive perception shift, so does Logion 2, and this theme really plays throughout all the sayings. Clearly Jesus looks at things a bit different than we are wont to do, and he's trying to get us to see it his way. Logion 3 introduces the very clear notion that the Kingdom is within, and not a far away travel destination. Then it introduces the clarification that it revolves around knowing yourself, and that when we truly know who we are (spirit!) we will know that we are one. In recent posts I have been discussing several other Logia where the notion of the immediacy of the Kingdom, such as Logion 51, comes up.

Again, Jeff Foster writes about similar notions without any particular reference to the Course, but it may be interesting to some students as a conceptual parallel, and in a very condensed form, yet very simple, straightforward, and accessible. In short, this little book comes highly recommended.

Did You Mean Poor or Poor?

Logion 54, is another gem, and a "prequel" to the NT, because it is quoted in the canonical gospel literature (Mt 5:3, Lk 6:20). And it has caused its fair share of misunderstandings by being taken literally, all of which revolves around guilt. Within the Jesus material this expression "poor" is obviously closely related to the idea of "rich" as in why a "rich man" is unlikely to enter the Kingdom. What Jesus evidently is talking about is riches and poverty in worldly terms, but he never addresses the physical, the specific, the concrete - he warns us all along that it all comes to us ("those outside") in parables - so he is talking about "valuing the valueless," as the expression goes in the Course. I.e. we spend most of our time being rich in the things of the world, which are worthless, not just possessions, but especially special relationships. They are valuable to us because they reconfirm the false self. Thus the ego reckons them to be of value. The subtle difference here is that you can be wealthy and not very attached to money, or wealthy and be a miserable scrooge. So none of this is about the amount of things anyone possesses, but about how much stock he sets in the things of the world. Simply therefore, the more we value the things of the world, the more we block ourselves from the Kingdom - it just all gets in the way.

Another way of looking at this misunderstanding, is that it's part of the ego's basic lack of comprehension, because within the framework of the dualistic consciousness of this world of time and space, it is bound to take the appearance at face value, because not to do so necessitates questioning the ego itself, which is a no no (to the ego). This is why Jesus says, that to "those outside" it all comes in parables, for unless we are "inside" with Jesus, we are destined to take this world literally. When we join with Jesus (in the mind) and "follow him" (in the mind), we will see that everything in the dualistic world is just a symbol, and it's up to the chooser if we want to be in hell and choose to look at it with the ego, or if we want to play with the nice kids in Heaven, and look at it with the eyes of the Holy Spirit, or Jesus.

"Poor" therefore in the context of this saying is similar in meaning to the "alone" we've found elsewhere. It is like the cleaning out the Augias stables in Greek mythology, just ridding ourselves of all the extra baggage which is holding us back. This is what the forgiveness process of the Course is all about as well. It's those attachments to "old stuff" which are the "obstacles to love's presence," which the Course talks about, and as long as we cling to them, we shut ourselves out of the Kingdom. The story of the ego, is simply a pile of resentments from an imaginary past (for it does not exist except in my memory), which in catch-22 manner, which would do Yossarian proud, are used to replace our vision in the present with the perception based on the past, thus justifying decisions in the presence which reinforce the ego and the separation, and thus validate the past. When we no longer choose for the past and the ego, the Kingdom is simply ours, for it always was, we simply suffered a bout of amnesia while we followed the pied piper that is the ego.

In short, Jesus meant "poor" as not invested in the values of the world, which would make us rich in the eyes of the world, but poor in spirit, for they are the idols which are the ego's magical spell, which keeps the spirit outside. Conversely "poor" in worldly attachments, would make us "rich" in spirit, for ours is the Kingdom.

Monday, September 14, 2009

When Oh When?

 If the ego is a maladaptive solution to a non-existing problem (one of my favorite expressions from Ken Wapnick - see him here on Self-sabotage), then the game of expectations is a beautiful variant of how the ego's slight of hand works. It really works like a bad management consultant who first charges you money to steal your information, and then turns around and sells you their solution to a problem you never had. Logion 51 is all about that. It is yet another way that Jesus points out in the poignant praphrasings of the Thomas Gospel how the Kingdom is not elsewhere, but it is right here, except we don't see it.There are numerous ways that this theme comes up in the Thomas Gospel, and it has interesting parallels in the Course. Logion 3 is another powerful expression of the same idea. The whole point is that the Kingdom is within, and it is only our choice for the ego that shuts us out, conversely it is our choice for the Holy Spirit or Jesus, by which we become chosen, simply because we'll remember that we always were. We set up the problem we are trying to solve, and the harder we try to solve it, the more we'll have it. Here is one way this is addressed in the Course:

The secret of salvation is but this: that you are doing this unto yourself. No matter what the form of the attack, this still is true. Whoever takes the role of enemy and of attacker, still is this the truth. Whatever seems to be the cause of any pain and suffering you feel, this is still true. For you would not react at all to figures in a dream you knew that you were dreaming. Let them be as hateful and as vicious as they may, they could have no effect on you unless you failed to recognize it is your dream. (ACIM:T-27.VIII.10)

So, we are the ones who chose the separation, which is why we don't "see the Kingdom," for the attack we see, is a mere reflection of our own self-attack in choosing the separation, which never happened in the first place. Just like with banging your head against the wall - it feels so good when you stop - as soon as we stop choosing the separation, our eyes will open to the reality of what the Course calls "the real world." Finally the Course also says this:

The journey to God is merely the reawakening of the knowledge of where you are always, and what you are forever. It is a journey without distance to a goal that has never changed. Truth can only be experienced. It cannot be described and it cannot be explained. I can make you aware of the conditions of truth, but the experience is of God. Together we can meet its conditions, but truth will dawn upon you of itself. (ACIM:T-8.VI.9:6-11)
"It is a journey without distance, to a goal that has never changed," the Kingdom is all around you, except you don't see it. Instead, what we do is re-enacting the separation constantly, and reinforcing the ego's presumed "sin" because we want to keep the ego alive, because we are thinking in our deluded state that we are our ego. Again, here is how the Course describes the psychological dynamic of how we keep the ego alive, and ourselves in hell:

    It is reasonable to ask how the mind could ever have made the ego. In fact, it is the best question you could ask. There is, however, no point in giving an answer in terms of the past because the past does not matter, and history would not exist if the same errors were not being repeated in the present. (ACIM:T-4.II.1:1-3)

So the undoing of the question is in stopping with banging your head against the wall, or in this case stopping with empowering your ego, by voting HS instead, and the subtlety which the Course teaches is that the Holy Spirit does not appear on the ballot in this world, and we choose Him by not voting EGO. That's as simple as it gets. Simple, if not always easy. Jesus does believe in truth in advertising, but at times he does take poetic license with us, but always with the ultimate goal of getting us to smile at our own silliness. The Course again:

How long, O Son of God, will you maintain the game of sin? Shall we not put away these sharp-edged children's toys? How soon will you be ready to come home? Perhaps today? There is no sin. Creation is unchanged. Would you still hold return to Heaven back? How long, O holy Son of God, how long? (ACIM:W-pII.4.5)

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Alone and Chosen

Logion 49 is certainly one that makes you stop and think. It picks up some familiar themes. To be "alone and chosen" is a curious expression, at least at first.

Evidently Jesus was much misunderstood by being taken too literally at a lot of levels, and this word "alone" ties in to some of them. The clue lies in such things as Logion 113, which plays upon a familiar theme of looking without seeing, by pointing out that the Kingdom is not some place else or in the distance, but rather it is all around us but we're not seeing it. As A Course in Miracles makes very clear in different ways, one of our problems is that we value the valueless, that we invest in the wrong stuff, the things of the world. And one of our key techniques of shutting out God and his Kingdom is through special relationships, so we should not be "alone." Which then was mistaken as an instruction that we should renounce the world, and later this was combined in monastic life with celibacy - an invention of the 11th century, by the way. It's just one of the many ways in which the ego demontrates how it is a maladaptive solution to a non-existent problem (as Ken Wapnick likes to call it), or to put it differently, how we validate the problem and make it real by means of our solution. But Jesus quite apparently was among people and was married (to Mary Magdalen), but what he explained in the famous statement which is Logion 99 in the Thomas collection, in which he ignores the "special relationships" of the world, and emphasizes that those who do the will of the Father are his brothers, and sisters, and his mother. In short he is not invested in specialness, but in our spiritual brotherhood, in joining in the sonship, and his mission was to invite us to do the same.

Thus by being "alone" in that sense, of "not invested in specialness," i.e. all that values the ego, which constantly needs to be validated by specialness, we are available to hear what A Course in Miracles calls the Voice for God, the voice of the Holy Spirit. This is also why the Course is very clear that the way out is not to go sit in a cave in the Himalayas, but rather to accept all our relationships as a classroom for going home, if we give them to the Holy Spirit, instead of letting the ego run the show. Thus, being "alone" in this sense of not being "busy" with the world, we are free for our mind to tune in to radio station WHS, instead of WEGO (that's a Gloria Wapnick special), which we've done most of our lives, and which had made us miserable. And again "the chosen ones, are merely the ones who choose right sooner." (ACIM:T-3.IV.7:14), and we are thus chosen by choosing to listen to that Voice.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Now About That Grapevine

Logion 40 is one of the "prequels" (to use the expression of Pursah, in Gary Renard's books) of a saying that we find in the New Testament literature. In this case, a variation on the statement comes back in Matthew 15:13, where it is bundled with some other sayings material, and made into a story in the style that is familiar from the synoptic gospels. They always tell a story around the saying.

The basic image is clear enough, the vine planted "outside the father" is not strong, it cannot be, and it "will be pulled up by its roots and die."

God is our source, and the ego's basic premise of an independent existence, outside of God, is not a viable proposition, it cannot be, or as the Course puts it:

There is no life outside of Heaven. Where God created life, there life must be. In any state apart from Heaven life is illusion. At best it seems like life; at worst, like death. Yet both are judgments on what is not life, equal in their inaccuracy and lack of meaning. Life not in Heaven is impossible, and what is not in Heaven is not anywhere. Outside of Heaven, only the conflict of illusion stands; senseless, impossible and beyond all reason, and yet perceived as an eternal barrier to Heaven. Illusions are but forms. Their content is never true. (ACIM:T-23.II.19)
This is one of the clearest statements in the Thomas Gospel on the notion that the ego's thought system simply does not work, and just so as the history of the Course makes it clear, which is also validated by people who have the experience in their own lives, we do not start looking for "another way," until we are quite at our wits' end with our way, and the ways of the world, and we become truly motivated and open for the alternative.

There is a fun little book I've been reading lately which demonstrates this issue very humorously, which is listed above. It is a hilarious and psychologically very astute look at why we strive for unhappiness, even though we pretend otherwise, because denial is the best cover over the ego's defense mechanisms. Of course there area many books, movies and statements which document in various ways how the ego system does not work, take your pick, some are ponderous, but many are quite funny, starting with Groucho Marx's notion that he would not belong to any club that would have him as a member (which is quoted in this little book as well). It's good to stop taking it so seriously, and focus on the real work which is the practice of forgiveness.

In the Thomas Gospel, inter alia Logion 56 offers an interesting corollary to the present statement. The notion that the world is merely a corpse, and that once you get that, you've transcended it, lines up perfectly with the tenor of Logion 40. Basically it helps to fully understand that the ego system is insane, there's no point to making it work, since the outcome is death anyway. The only thing that trips us up is that we just automatically slip into identifying with our roles in the world again, and this is why Jesus advocates a change of mine, and that we join with him in seeking only his Kingdom which is not of this world. The ego is always afraid that we will die if we let go of our attachment to this world, which is not true, and it's logic is completely unsound, for death is the certain outcome of the ego's proposition, yet it tries to scare us with the fear of death. The greatest risk of letting go of our attachments to the things of the world is of course peace, and happiness, which therefore the ego wants to avoid at all costs. Watzlawick's book ends as follows:

This little book began with a passage from Dostoyevsky, and perhaps it should conclude with another quotation from his work. In The Possessed, one of Dostoyevsky's most enigmatic charachters has this to say:

Everything's good.... Everything. Man is unhappy because he doesn't know he is happy. It's only tat. That's all, that's all! If one finds out, one will become happy at once, that minute.

The situation is hopeless and the solution is hopelessly simple. (Paul Watzlawick, The Situation Is Hopeless, But Not Serious, p. 121)
Or, as A Course in Miracles would have it:

    In order to heal, it thus becomes essential for the teacher of God to let all his own mistakes be corrected. If he senses even the faintest hint of irritation in himself as he responds to anyone, let him instantly realize that he has made an interpretation that is not true. Then let him turn within to his eternal Guide, and let Him judge what the response should be. So is he healed, and in his healing is his pupil healed with him. The sole responsibility of God's teacher is to accept the Atonement for himself. Atonement means correction, or the undoing of errors. When this has been accomplished, the teacher of God becomes a miracle worker by definition. His sins have been forgiven him, and he no longer condemns himself. How can he then condemn anyone? And who is there whom his forgiveness can fail to heal? (ACIM:M-18.4)
Hopelessly simple indeed.

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Lilies of the Field

And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. (Mt 6:28)
That is the Biblical version most of us will be familiar with. Here is the same passage in full in the KJV:

Matthew 6:27-29 (King James Version):
 27 Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?
 28 And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:
 29 And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
As per usual, the sayings are more "dressed up" and put in a context of a story in the canonical gospels. Logion 36 is the oldest known version of the statement. It is very basic:

Do not worry, from morning to night and from night until morning, about what you will wear. The lilies neither toil nor spin.

This is one of those statements which has immediate appeal, and which kind of stays with you. It obviously does not mean to just live it up and not worry about tomorrow. What it does mean is that on the spiritual path we need not worry about the outside appearances, giving us for inspiration the image of the lilies of the field in their natural beauty. Worrying, which we are inclined to do constantly, is the ego's favorite tool to counter the "Development of Trust" as the Course calls it, which is perhaps the central process in our learning to change our life in the direction of total reliance on our Internal Teacher. Here is a key section:

    This [trust] is the foundation on which their [the teachers' of God's] ability to fulfill their function rests. Perception is the result of learning. In fact, perception is learning, because cause and effect are never separated. The teachers of God have trust in the world, because they have learned it is not governed by the laws the world made up. It is governed by a power that is in them but not of them. It is this power that keeps all things safe. It is through this power that the teachers of God look on a forgiven world.
  When this power has once been experienced, it is impossible to trust one's own petty strength again. Who would attempt to fly with the tiny wings of a sparrow when the mighty power of an eagle has been given him? And who would place his faith in the shabby offerings of the ego when the gifts of God are laid before him? What is it that induces them to make the shift? (ACIM:M-4.I.1-2) 

When we learn to live from spirit we are aligning ourselves with the cause, for the world is just the stage, the projection screen where the play plays itself out, but the mind is the cause. Choosing the separation, we made ourselves into the center of a universe, and everything else became a sort of a remote threat over which we no longer have any control. When we reawaken to spirit, we are aligning ourselves with cause in the mind. So no longer would we waste our time rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic, we would naturally also have the total trust, for we know that the things of the phenomenal world are only the out-picturing of a state of mind, and we can learn to change our state of mind. Hence, there is nothing left to worry about. Only in our separated state is there anything out there that could threaten us.

There are several other Logia which strike related themes. Logion 89 comes to mind - it deals with our focus on the outside (form) before the content. Also, Logion 97 pictures in a humorous way, how we will end up empty handed whenever we focus on the outside (form), and focus on preserving it, while losing the content, the meaning, the essence, the spirit. This is forever a fundamental signal of the ego, and the development of trust is about trusting the spirit first and knowing that the right forms will emerge.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Choosing the Right Foundation

Logion 32 naturally is about the same notions as the story we find in the canonical gospels where Jesus tells Simon to become the rock on which he can build his church. While the world has mostly blithely assumed he was talking about real estate, or at least a physical institution, this is obviously not the case, for that is never what he is talking about. Jesus was making a pun on the ambivalence of Simon, in listening to him, Jesus, and the need for Simon to once and for all choose spirit as the foundation of his "church," because only in spirit can we truly join with our brothers, in the realization of the oneness of the sonship. Bringing bodies together is a poor substitute for the true communion of the spirit. The "city built on a high hill" in that sense is the equivalent to the community (church) built on the rock of spirit. The only thing that cannot "fall" is spirit - in this world everything decays and dies. Here is the famed passage:

Jesus replied, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter,[a] and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades[b] will not overcome it.[c] I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be[d] bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be[e] loosed in heaven." (Mt. 16:17-19, NIV)

Another element that is implied in this saying is the notion that the choice between spirit or the ego is blatantly obvious, "nor can it be hidden." The community of spirit will be easy to recognize as such, it cannot be mistaken for anything else. Again and again, when we get back to these original sayings in Thomas it becomes easier to "hear" that Jesus was just playing with words and symbols, and is always speaking in parables, as indeed he frequently tells us, even in the texts which made it into the New Testament. So he never was telling us to go into urban planning and develop fortified cities on hills. Just like he was never speaking of "bread" either. Here is the passage  from Matthew, where you can almost hear Jesus pull his hair out that people keep taking him literally, when he is clearly speaking to them in parables.

Don't you know by now that I am not talking to you about bread? Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees! (Mt. 16:11, CEV)

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

On Being Chosen

The notion of being chosen is one of the most baffling concepts, particularly because of the obnoxious way it has traditionally been treated by Christian theology, implying that God plays favorites. That is not the meaning of the phrase however, and perceptive readers could have guessed that, for it is so evidently contradictory to everything Jesus teaches, as in e.g. the parable of the prodigal son. Here is a critical passage from A Course in Miracles, which may shed some light. Notice that the "I" person is Jesus.

God and His creations remain in surety, and therefore know that no miscreation exists. Truth cannot deal with errors that you want. I was a man who remembered spirit and its knowledge. As a man I did not attempt to counteract error with knowledge, but to correct error from the bottom up. I demonstrated both the powerlessness of the body and the power of the mind. By uniting my will with that of my Creator, I naturally remembered spirit and its real purpose. I cannot unite your will with God's for you, but I can erase all misperceptions from your mind if you will bring it under my guidance. Only your misperceptions stand in your way. Without them your choice is certain. Sane perception induces sane choosing. I cannot choose for you, but I can help you make your own right choice. "Many are called but few are chosen" should be, "All are called but few choose to listen." Therefore, they do not choose right. The "chosen ones" are merely those who choose right sooner. Right minds can do this now, and they will find rest unto their souls. God knows you only in peace, and this is your reality. (ACIM:T-3.IV.7)
It comes up in Thomas as Logion 23, It is very interesting to see how Pursah's comments to Gary, which I discussed in my book, are a close parallel to what the Course says about this issue. The logic is that there is a reciprocity here, which really means we have to opt in. Jesus makes this clear in the Course in a variety of ways that it is all about our choice to want to find another way. Until we do that, we stick to the counsel of our ego, and we throw Jesus out as far as we can throw him. Only when we find out our way may not be working as advertised, are we able to give ourselves the option to find "another way." This is very logical. As long as we think that what we're doing works, there is no incentive to try something else. So Jesus, or the Holy Spirit do not force themselves on us. They are available to us by our invitation only. Conversely our invitation means a willingness to listen. So we choose ourselves whenever we take the earphones off and stop listening to the pre-recorded music of the ego, so we can start listening to the Voice for God.
Accordingly what this saying means is that Jesus "chooses" the ones who listen, and by choosing to do so they will literally unite, for joining with Jesus is to choose for the oneness of the sonship, instead of for the multiplicity of our separate identities. So we will indeed stand with him as a single one. Logion 13 emphasizes the same idea in a different way,  by indicating that even among the apostles not all are ready to hear the whole story. So again, it is our preparedness to hear, in which we choose ourselves to be available for the message which is always there, and never changes.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


While the purpose of this site is to be an extension of my book Closing the Circle, and provide more material that was simply too detailed, or just too voluminous to be included in the book, I do feel compelled to maintain a certain sense of balance. I have noticed over time that some of the Logia have not come up in other contexts, and I realized that it might be fun at this point to expand on some of them beyond what was in the book. The whole thing is becoming a sort of a tapestry in which these sayings are becoming the repeating patterns. I'm beginning to sense that while the collection per se is not an organic whole, or in any way a complete representation of the teachings of Jesus, but rather an unfinished collection of pearls of wisdom, the way this site has grown, it is beginning to demonstrate more of an inner consistency among the collection, which tends to demonstrate how it does form a certain pattern we can recognize.

So, in that spirit, I just took an inventory of the Logia which have not yet come up in conversation, and they are respectively, 23, 32, 36, 40, 49, 51, 54, 58, 59, 70, 75, 76, 79, 80, 85, 86, 88, 92, 94, 95, 97, 103, 106, 107, 109. It'll be interesting at this point to see if I recognize any pattern among this collection. Pursah does point out in her comments in Gary's books that some of these sayings are not as easy for the modern western reader as some others.

So, the next few posts will be devoted to these stragglers. Meanwhile, I want to report here that I have begun to get reader feedback, complementing my own experience, strengthening my belief that for me the Pursah version of the Thomas gospel is the definitive edition. I was really very delighted recently to get a strong confirmation of that from a reader who evidently had a strong inner experience that this is the case. As I reported in the book, my original inclination had been to include a translation based on the Nag Hammadi texts, but when I encountered all kinds of difficulties with that, in particular in terms of getting the necessary permissions, I sensed that this might not be practical, in particular since the exercise would have to be repeated for every translation of the book. It seemed too much work and effort for something that was absolutely not material to the book, but more a matter of courtesy. Funnily enough, I naively assumed that in a field where there are 10+ Thomas translations circulating in most languages, I thought that the publishers of whatever text I chose would be happy if their edition got a boost from being thusly included in my book, and so I figured I was helping them. Hilariously, some of these folks thought I should pay them for the privilege. Some others did not even respond at all to the inquiry. So I gave it up. Initially I thought it was a sacrifice of convenience for the eventual reader, but then I realized it was a highly beneficial streamlining. No use carrying that ballast. This is how the comments about the comparison with the historical text have ended up being made in very general terms, so that everyone can do their own individual comparison with their own favorite translations. The bottom line is you'll do it only once, if that, and then you know. There is just no comparison.

The corollary to this information is our own reading experience, which also finds expression in this blog, in the sense that the more you commune with the text (in Pursah's version), the more you get the feeling I described above, which is that while the Thomas Gospel is not a complete text of Jesus' teachings even in the historical sense, as Pursah also addresses with Gary in his books, the more you work with it, the more consistent and coherent they seem to be, as if they were indeed repeat patterns in the embroidery of this particular tapestry. They very clearly belong together and come from the same place, and this becomes even more clear when you have the context of A Course in Miracles, and Gary's two books, now soon to be three, or even four.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Two or Three

For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them. (Mt. 18:20, KJV)
This is an always mysterious quote, which has intrigued people, and most of the time it is being horribly misinterpreted, because in our western traditions in particular, there is little tradition of introspection to give us a clue. The overly literal interpretation came about for the same reason as the Pauline tradition in Christianity, which is the dominant one, has consistently maintained (although Paul did hesitate, and at times pondered the other possibility), their interpretation of the resurrection as an event on a bodily level, which clearly was not the point. And so his "church" became a building, not to mention a real estate empire (tax exempt, no less).
It also isn't about a table at Starbucks where we meet with friends, and somehow symbolically keep a seat free for Jesus, like the seat kep for Elijah at a Passover Seder. And going to church isn't the answer either. Sometimes you may have a lovely experience, but you realize in the end that it's not guaranteed by being there, regardless how many people are there, for who knows what mental state they (or you yourself) are in, and Jesus may not at all be front of mind.

Essentially the Course, and the teachings of Jesus as a whole, are about mind training, about learning to "follow him," namely as opposed to following our own counsel. To make room for Jesus or the Holy Spirit means in essence to suspend our own judgment. It is the advice of Logion 42, "Be passersby." And, of course, following him in that sense also means to follow him out of this world, to his Kingdom not of this world. Non-judgment is the first step on that road. So human adulthood here is not seen in the usual sense of "knowing how to judge for yourself." The practical meaning of that is merely -- to cite Jed McKenna -- to be frozen in the mentality of a twelve year old. It all revolves about judgments of what is or is not good for me. Growing up in the spiritual sense only begins when we realize that our judgments are at the cause of all the troubles we have, because they set up the experiences which we call our life. To have a different experience begins then with taking different advice. This is also why Jesus in the Course often addresses us like little children, who are just doing the first feeble steps on our spiritual journey.

J said, "I will give you what no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, what no hand has touched, and what has not arisen in the human heart." (Pursah's Gospel of Thomas, Logion 17)
So again, he can give us his vision only if we defer our judgment, which is tough, because we are very addicted to it, and this again is why the Course calls itself a course in mind training. It definitely takes a lot of practice to learn new habits, but this is the essence of the "miracle," the change of mind (NT Greek: metanoia), of which Jesus speaks. The Course says it as follows:

  A miracle is a correction. It does not create, nor really change at all. It merely looks on devastation, and reminds the mind that what it sees is false. It undoes error, but does not attempt to go beyond perception, nor exceed the function of forgiveness. Thus it stays within time's limits. Yet it paves the way for the return of timelessness and love's awakening, for fear must slip away under the gentle remedy it brings.
  A miracle contains the gift of grace, for it is given and received as one. And thus it illustrates the law of truth the world does not obey, because it fails entirely to understand its ways. A miracle inverts perception which was upside down before, and thus it ends the strange distortions that were manifest. Now is perception open to the truth. Now is forgiveness seen as justified. (ACIM:W-pII.13.1-2) 

Our non-judgment clears the way for the miracle, for it is our judgments which are the obstacles to love's presence.

This is the time in which a new year will soon be born from the time of Christ. I have perfect faith in you to do all that you would accomplish. Nothing will be lacking, and you will make complete and not destroy. Say, then, to your brother:

I give you to the Holy Spirit as part of myself.
I know that you will be released, unless I want to use you to imprison myself.
In the name of my freedom I choose your release, because I recognize that we will be released together.

So will the year begin in joy and freedom. There is much to do, and we have been long delayed. Accept the holy instant as this year is born, and take your place, so long left unfulfilled, in the Great Awakening. Make this year different by making it all the same. And let all your relationships be made holy for you. This is our will. Amen. (ACIM:T-15.XI.10)
All our meetings with our brothers will be "the same" because we meet them as spirit and in spirit, so Jesus will be in our midst. We leave our judgment home for the occasion, and the more we do so, the happier we'll be, until we truly accept the atonement for ourselves, and our years will be "all the same," namely happy, because we are in the real world. It is often through chance meetings, where we are not burdened by our judgments that we learn in practice how much freer we feel meeting in an "open field" without any burdens of the past, which is really our judgments. That contrast can teach us that some day we could always live that way.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Denial Is Not A River In Egypt

For me at least Hitler has been one of my favorite ways of looking at the ego thought system, and somehow I just managed to finish the major biography in about six months. It took me about six years to read the first quarter of it, and then I suddenly read the remaining three quarters in six months. For good measure I then plunged into Richard J. Evans' history of the Third Reich. Having grown up just after WWII, and in Rotterdam where the results were still very visible all around from the original bombardment during the German Blitzkrieg-invasion in 1940, and the town was being rebuilt still when I went to high school. I had to bicycle for about 40 minutes through the center city, where you could still always see the charred outer walls of the remaining old buildings, while the inner city was all new construction. And there were endless stories at the dinner table of how my parents and their parents survived under the occupation.

I note here that this is one thing the Thomas Gospel does not give us, the full view of the insanity of the ego thought system, although it will touch on the fact that the (ego-) world resists what Jesus has to teach. So this is also why  Pursah in Gary Renard's The Disappearance of the Universe, makes it very clear that the Thomas sayings are just little vignettes, not the full thought system, but that A Course in Miracles clarifies the whole thought system. And the Course in turn spends a lot of time teaching us how the ego system works, and teaching us how to look at it with forgiveness, which in the end means not taking it seriously at all. So The Mouse that Roared is in the end a better analogy for the ego than anything else, it turns out to be just totally ridiculous, which we do not see as long as our denial protects it. Hence the Course consistently advocates that it is looking at the ego with Jesus (forgiveness), not with judgment, which ultimately deflates the "power" of the ego, and thus enables us to choose once again, for the thought system of the Holy Spirit, which Jesus advocates. What the Course calls the little willingness, is that willingness to consider that Jesus was right and we were wrong. Until we are willing to see that, we continue to be impressed by the ego's antics. And we all have that little Hitler inside, for that is all the ego is, it is the one true slave driver, who keeps us in bondage, and the external oppressors we experience in the world are only the reflection of that inner choice, for if we were free inside, we would not be impressed. Jesus was the example of that, for he knew there was nothing to be defensive about, since he was no longer buying into the illusion that there is anything at all of value here.

To come back to WWII for a moment, which is full of interesting lessons of how the ego works, the German magazine, Der Spiegel, just published an excellent series of articles under the title Why Wasn't Hitler Stopped, at this time which is the commemoration that the Polish Invasion is now 70 years ago, paying special attention to how appeasement enabled Hitler to do what he did, and how at many times in the run-up he was all bluff. The French could have easily wiped him out in the annexation of the Alsace-Lorraine, etc. It is interesting to see how with the growing distance there is more and more willingness to see the mistakes that were made on all levels. That also tells you that it will take several generations before people will get honest about the wars being fought today. What often gets too little attention are experiences of grace such as the stories of Corrie ten Boom and her sister, and also Victor Frankl's experiences. In the end the story is always a form of resurrection story, in which spiritual renewal is born out of the destruction. The way out lies through the fear, for the fear is maintained in power by running from it. That seems counter intuitive, but it's always through. The answer is not bravery, or bravura, but forgiveness, that is the only thing which takes the air out of the balloon, and we have nothing to forgive but fear itself (pun intended - it was just a silly mistake).

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Picture Worth 1000 Words

  • When writing recently about my reading experiences with Ian Kershaw's Hitler biography, I commented to someone that what stood out most to me was the complete and absurd banality of the whole thing, and the fact that quite clearly Hitler had absolutely nothing to offer, but always managed to manipulate people into all or nothing choices, in which he bamboozled them into thinking there was actually something in his empty hand, not to mention the fact that really both his hands were empty. All of this came into real focus for me in how he managed to completely manipulate the army, which had been quite an independent institution, with a certain pride and professionalism, but he managed again and again to get them on his side to an almost incredible degree, or at least not object, even while his choices at times were bereft of common sense from the professional military standpoint.

    Today friend sent me this picture, which kind of says it all.