Friday, August 31, 2007

...see Resistance to Change

What is I.S.? "'ism syndrom," can happen in any spiritual student community. I've also noticed it both in the course in miracles community and with some of the more prominently displayed certified facilitators of the The Work (Byron Katie's work).

I once received an invitation to a conference call with Katie and was happy to receive it and have the chance to hear Katie on the phone. So I joined the conference call at the appropriate time and day and a woman came on saying that Katie would be along shortly and that she usually pops in whenever. Katie never came on the call and we spent the hour listening to this presenter emulate Katie, her expressions, her voice, even her h'mms.. when she is pausing and bringing into words the thoughts that she tries to express in a comfortable human language for her audience. But this woman's emulation was intriguing to say the least, then another woman joined her, I guess they were collaborators in their venture. She sounded just like her, like a Katie imitator. They bring down their tone, pause between words, and use her speech patterns: "I see that" "I hear that you think that.." and repeated many known Katie'isms.

The same phenomenon occurs with different expressions in form within the course in miracles student body. And it has nothing to do with the course, but everything to do with the student. The course is threatening to the ego, and there is an immediate response from the ego to resist, lest you change your mind and be done with it!

Many resistance or defense mechanisms develop, one of them is a sudden inability to pray normally, to speak normally, to relate to others normally, behave normally or to suddenly begin channeling your own material, as if trying to one-up Jesus and his course. So you end up with a mix of run-away gurus, would-be extensions of the course by the self denominated gurus, formation of cults, publication of alternative versions to the authentic FIP and final version, etc.

Another type of resistance is to render you incapable of being honest with yourself as far as where you stand spiritually when you look in the mirror. Believe me, I've been there. When you begin to catch your ego in action and worse, when you learn not to feel guilty about its antics, what the course calls "the face of innocence" (T-31.V.4.) displays itself more and more intensely, in an effort to cover the horror that a peek at the ego has brought about ("the face of guilt") the false concept of self, which lies just beneath the face of innocence. Both cover over the Real You, the Christ that shines wholly innocent within, but One which through dissociation you have forgotten and buried and covered over with these two layers.

So, as soon as you begin to inquire into your mind, and the lid opens to the subconscious, the face of innocence makes itself more visible, and you begin to try and prove you are somehow more spiritual, more developed, on a higher level than your brothers.

When this occurs, many declare themselves 'enlightened' and run around telling people that Holy Spirit tells them even what movie to watch this evening, and use words like "dear one" and "sweetie" and "beloved" to talk to perfect strangers on the internet in order to appear to have gone beyond any form of grievance, and lose the ability to describe themselves in plain human terms as if doing so was a shameful thing, accepting only descriptions that sound somehow enlightened or more spiritual. What is not noticed is that what we are doing all along is doing precisely what the course teaches us not to do: separating.

Nothing sinful or terrible. It's just a normal, a very normal reaction from the ego part of the mind that now perceives threat because the right mind is stirring and awakening looms in the not too distant future, and this heralds the disappearance of the ego. If you were an ego.. you would move to survival mode too, which is what happens.

And since the ego is self-made, it knows what its weak buttons are in any given fragment at any given time (seeming fragment, you, me, x or y person) and so it uses the retaliative technique that will most promptly push you away from this path... but it is only resistance and this resistance is quite easily overcome if you learn to recognize the ego and forgive yourself for it rather than running away from it and spiritualizing its shenanigans, fearing that if you don't 'act' spiritual you won't BE spiritual.

Just something to notice, but it's not because of the work, or the course, it's because of the ego that the work is here to undo. And it is nothing to feel ashamed or guilty for, just something to notice and then be aware of and on guard about. If we are not aware of this, it is very easy to fall into the temptation of becoming a premature guru and forget to do the course altogether, or even worse, a risk of becoming unkind and losing any sense of compassion for others and being so worried about 'looking' spiritual that you may say totally hurtful things at the worst times, like telling people that death is not real at a funeral, or telling a very sick person that 'sickness is a defense against truth' and rather then being helpful, we end up becoming the bearers of fear and pain for that person, basically going the ego route.

In reality all the course calls us to do and be is kind and to join with others in the most helpful way they can accept. That is all.

Additionally, just because people read the course, it doesn't mean they are living it one hundred percent of the time and they can be expected to behave like angels or enlightened beings. So another form or resistance is to look for faults in spiritual students and teachers and point them out as 'evidence' that the teachings they usually represent do not work.

Another form of resistance is to master the material, the book's contents intellectually and be able to quote it right and left, but not to live it at all, just appear as if you do. I'd say the large majority of students spend a great deal of time in their lifetime in this stage.

Resistance ultimately is nothing but a fear that has to be overcome because the fear is to disappear into oblivion if you follow the course. As the course says, to the ego the logic is upside-down and awakening means oblivion (paraphrasing). This is something to forgive when we perceive it going on. Not something to deny, ignore or feel ashamed of or guilty for.

However there are also those who live it and you can tell "by their fruits" as is the case of Ken Wapnick, whom I happened to meet two years ago and saw again this summer in Atlanta. If you happen to be able to visit with him personally will help you experience what a student of this course that has practiced its teachings for a few decades consistently turns into. Just humble, loving, unassuming, unaffected, happy, contagiously happy and sincere in his brotherhood as he extends it to you in the best way he knows that you need to receive this precious gift. All in all, a pretty normal loving fellow. There are others, but he is just one that comes to mind.

Resistance is not overcome with resistance though, only like darkness, with light. And light only comes when we actually move the hand and flip the switch, not when we talk about it. The consistent practice of self-observation and forgiveness slowly turns resistance into nothing at all.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

... see Lies vs. Truth

Sometimes when thinking about the purpose of lies it makes me wonder why do we lie? Really? And we do it unconsciously too… like when women put on make-up in the morning. Isn’t showing the world a different face than the one you have somewhat of a lie? It seems to be everywhere, even in the Course community. Last year a sad experience around a Course community related event became a difficult forgiveness lesson, further motivating me to inquire.

Early in my studies of the Course I heard about Dr. Ken Wapnick through a member of a study group I was attending at the time. Once I found Ken, I was hooked.

I had never heard anyone speak with more honesty and lack of personal investment on anything, let alone the Course. And I have ve listened to plenty of presenters, having been an avid researcher of metaphysical and spiritual subjects all my life. Most Course teachers cannot abstain from throwing the “I” here and there, as I am doing here. It is always about my experience, my view, my opinion, how I relate to this teaching, etc. But not Ken, he seldom mentions himself in the thousands of pages he has written, and seldom does he make himself the hero of anyone’s movie. The interesting thing is that this makes him even more attractive.

Now, the purpose here is to discuss our deeply rooted need to lie, not a specific teacher of the Course. It’s just that Ken makes a perfect example of a different kind of honesty, one that is very effective and is taught by the Course. In order to undo all the lying that goes on in the world we need to understand where it comes from.

In this world lying is actually a very natural thing. Telling lies is something that is built-in into our nature, the nature of the ego, as long as we do most of our listening from the wrong inner teacher. Lying, or misrepresenting what is, is a built-in mechanism, an intrinsic part of the thought system that rules and perpetuates our world. There is practically nowhere you can look, no advertisement you can hear, no book you can read, that does not contain a lie.

The problem is actually ontological. This world was made as a result of a lie. The world we seem to live in, as the Course says, was not created by God, it was rather made by the ego. This is one of the most basic and core teachings of the Course. The world and everything we seem to see in it, all of it’ was made by the ego and not just for no reason but to serve a specific purpose. Yes there is intent in building it, making it, projecting it, forgetting that we did just that and then seeing it as if for the first time.

Though it makes us somewhat uncomfortable and it is clearly beyond our understanding we, as students of the Course, sometimes quickly settle into the premise that this world is not really there. However, when we do this we stop short of going deeper into the question of why. If we live in a world that isn’t real, not really there, then why do we think it is real? Why do we seem to dwell in it? Why do we prefer that it be real? Why does it make us anxious to accept its unreality? What purpose does an unreal world, accepted as real, serve? And how does this ultimately relate to our basic need to lie?

Are we lying to ourselves then? Yes, of course! Not only do we lie to ourselves on a deep, unconscious, or metaphysical level but this is reinforced by all sorts of lying that goes on at the conscious level. We either tell lies, innocent ones, like when I put on make-up every morning before stepping out of the house, basically changing my face to the world, or when we overlook the lying that goes on in the world, sometimes selectively. We are lied to by politicians at election time, yet we meekly go to the polls and cast our vote for the lesser of two liars, even when the lies are obvious. We are lied to by businesses and we empty our pockets upon their next promotion.

This basic need to lie, and be lied to, is founded on the deep ego premise that in order for there to be a “me,” in order for me to exist, and in order to continue to survive and thrive as a separate organism, there cannot be a God. At least not an all-encompassing non-dualistic One Being of which I am an integral part. In order for me to be here- and I like that- and in order for us to be here- and we like that- there must be a way for there to be many instead of One, or at least two.

But where is the mother lie that births all the children lies? It lies precisely on the idea that God can indeed be undone. In order for me to be here and for us to be here God must die. As impossible and ludicrous as this may sound that is the basic tenet of the ego and of the world, it is the glue that holds the universe neatly in place and an idea that must be perpetuated in order to guarantee its existence. I must convince myself of this on a continual basis in order to experience a separate and individual existence with some consistency.

The only way to convince myself of this total untruth is to tell myself a lie, many lies, and then believe them. It’s not just a thought system it is a lie system. One tiny lie, one “tiny mad idea,” as the Course refers to this big-whopper, snow-balls into a universe of continuous deception from the big-bang to the belief in birth, the belief in death, and everything in between.

Here is an example. I just received in the mail a monthly magazine published by an organization that promotes itself as a Course based organization. The magazine proudly displays advertisements about books and materials they publish, sell, or resale. One ad reads the following, about a version of the Course they are selling, a work-in-progress version before the Course was ever officially published by the Foundation for Inner Peace. The ad reads: “This version derives from a version that was completed by Helen Shucman and Bill Thetford in 1972. Later editing by others removed about %25 of the material…Many students consider study of this unabridged version to be indispensable in their curriculum.”

Upon reading this, an unaware reader may jump on the phone and order the so-called indispensable book. However, one need but do some light research at a couple of web sites or read one or two chapters of a couple of books to find out this is a misrepresentation of the truth. Firstly, this is not an unabridged version of the Course, nor is it the Original Course as it has been dubbed for publication. There were other manuscripts prior to that one. And there was work still left to be done, in order for the document to become what it needed to become in order to serve all of humanity, all inclusively. this particular version is one of several earlier manuscripts, a work-in-progress, of the Course prior to final publication. Second, Helen Schucman was involved in the editing process of the Course right into its publication’s final stages and initial expansion in small groups in which Helen chose not to participate as a teacher, a function she (and Jesus through her) clearly delegated to Dr. Wapnick. But both she and Bill Thetford, her co-scribe, used this final publication, studied it, practiced it, carried it around, and proudly shared it as the definitive work.

It is said that by their fruits we shall know them. Looking at it with the heart it is quite obvious that everyone who was involved in this process was brought into it at the right time, for the right purpose in the role that he or she would fulfill to perfection under Jesus’ Guidance, including the collaboration of Dr. Wapnick with Helen Shucman for stylistic minor edits in the final stages. Edits like punctuation, adding titles and headings, numbering for easy reference across languages like the Bible, moving some of the text around for better readability, and extricating any left-over personal notes between Jesus, Helen, and Bill as deemed appropriate by all of them were necessary in order to bring the contents of the message to its final form.

Helen’s hearing had to be fine-tuned by Jesus Himself in order to arrive at a product that, based on a basic principle of the Course, is equally applicable and can be embraced by the entire Sonship, meaning all of humanity, regardless of culture, language, location, gender, age, etc. A version devoid of personal reference material had to be assembled in order to accomplish this. Specificity is of the ego. Specificity makes specialness, a major no-no in this school. So you see? This was not edited by “others” in absence of Helen and Bill. This is a lie, and it appears in this magazine time and time again, month after month. Its publishers repeat it to people over and over again. One wonders if they even believe it themselves. They probably mean well and this is what they have heard from others, or it may be what they’ve decided to say in order to sell this book and spark interest and therefore more sales. Why is that?

We could find thousands of examples, even within the Course community, of how people use a teaching to lie, deceive, and enrich themselves with material wealth, fame, and fun. But pointing out the faulty behavior in others and dwelling on it only serves one purpose: The ego’s purpose of self-preservation through the enforcement of the rules of separation. There are always others to blame. The misrepresentation of truth above mentioned is a lie that is being told and is spreading among thousands of people. So to those people, it becomes a truth. I am using this as an example of how comfortable we become with lies and how easily we accept them.

The Course’s Manual for Teachers has a section about how to come to God if we follow it in practice. This process results in the manifestation of our Spirit, incipient at first, complete at last, and always paving the way for our return Home. The manifestation is described as a process in which the characteristics, or attributes, of Spirit become freely manifest in the newly born teacher of God, or student of this Course. The first and earliest manifestation or attribute of Spirit listed is Trust. The second one is Honesty, plain and simple honesty. These two are the basis for all the subsequent ones.

In short, being tempted to lie, or being exposed to other people’s lies, is almost unavoidable here in this world, regardless of Course involvement by the perpetrators. The Manual gives us here a good meter for knowing when one is giving in to the temptation to misrepresent the truth and hopefully to know when one is potentially being deceived, brackets are mine:

“The term [Honesty] actually means consistency. There is nothing you say that contradicts what you think or do; no thought opposes any other thought; no act belies your word; and no word lacks agreement with another. Such are the truly honest. At no level are they in conflict with themselves. Therefore it is impossible for them to be in conflict with anyone or anything.” (ACIM M-4.II.1.5).

Based on this description it would seem that we are always lying to ourselves, others, or God. You see? It is not just about what you say. It is not just about what you do. It is not just about what you think. It’s about how all of these are aligned, it is about who you are, consistently. When one sees a Course related organization or teacher engaging in any form of conflict, or even apparent deceit, it is time to do two things: forgive and forgive.

This means it is time to do one thing really: See it as a call for love. This is what the Holy Spirit would have us do with every perceived form of attack. Recognizing a lie simply means that we both have slipped into the temptation to be separate; the attraction that this holds for both of us deep inside.

So, thread lightly, be cautious, don’t get taken-in by the ego’s plan unfolding currently in the barrage of Course-based gurus that are sprouting everywhere in this community. Just DO the Course yourself and follow your Inner Guide. If anyone’s teachings are helpful in this purpose, embrace them. If not, we are better to leave them aside. Either way, it is best to forgive them both because neither is special. There is no lack of forgiveness opportunity in this or any other community. And if you catch yourself telling a white lie, or a major lie, forgive yourself as well. One day day you too, like Pinocchio, will BE the Real Deal, and won’t have to resort to lies to keep this dream alive.

... See Judas

A new wave of mysticism washes over the spiritual community as the taboo topics of yesterday become best selling novels and hot-topics for TV, Internet, and radio talk shows. People inquire and talk about the discovered texts of the Nag Hammadi Library, the Gospel of Mary Magdalene, the Gospel of Thomas, the finally– and partially –available Gospel of Judas, the ancient secret societies like the Knights Templar brought out to the light by The Da Vinci Code, etc.

Many of us can barely stand the excitement when witnessing one of these modern-day discoveries of ancient texts and well-kept “secrets,” especially one that departs from the traditional views of standard religious dogma. We almost can hear a muffled I knew it! inside our heart as it leaps for joy.

There seems to be a lovingly gentle, wise, invisible and all-knowing hand leading humanity to a new way, a different way, a better way in all this. This same loving Guide also seems to have brought a monumental new teaching into the 20th Century, our beloved Course in Miracles, and to It leads one’s way to finding and understanding its teaching in a very methodic and personalized way.

This was my experience. I found and quickly plunged into the Course at the turn of the millennium. Prior to that this Guide had led my hand through a transformative process of changing my mind, a process that was nothing more than preparatory work for the moment when the Course would become an integral part of my everyday life.

As most students know, the Course was born in NY in the early 1970’s, and prior to this time it wasn’t even a glimmer in anyone’s eyes. Interestingly, also during the 1970s, a Coptic papyrus was discovered near Beni Masah, Egypt. The document has been translated and appears to be a text from the 2nd century A.D. describing the story of Jesus’s death from the viewpoint of Judas. The conclusion of the text refers (in Coptic) to the document as “the Gospel of Judas” (Euangelion Ioudas) [1].

Interesting timing don’t you think? That both Jesus and Judas should choose to appear again in the course of History at around the same time? According to a 2006 translation of the manuscript of the text, it is apparently a Gnostic account of an arrangement between Jesus and Judas, who in this telling are Gnostically enlightened beings, with Jesus asking Judas to turn him in to the Romans to help Jesus finish his appointed task from God. Way before this time, around 1945, a close-encounter of the mystical kind also took place, which heralds the return of Judas into the 20th Century. As WWII unfolded and extended its arms to every continent, including South America a mysterious and hardly documented encounter took place. This encounter resulted in the only publication to make a record of it in 1953. A book titled The Flight of the Feathered Serpent ((ISBN 0-9740560-2-2).

Its author, Armando Cosani, was an average Joe, a war-time correspondent and amateur journalist who felt deeply affected by the state of world affairs, the monstrosity of war, not just for what it was and is, but for how easily we humans accept and sometimes even become so comfortable with its hellish reality as to make it our own and even come enjoy or benefit from its circumstances.

Armando Cosani suggests in his account an untold story of Judas as a Spiritual Master. Here is an excerpt:

I would like to speak to you about Judas, the man of Kariot, the one you have cursed many times, but who was a beloved brother of that Son of Man whose name was Jesus and who was also the son of the Mayab.

I know well that all I’m going to say to you from now on, in this determination for justice, is in open contradiction to everything you believed to be true of what happened in very remote times.

I, the poorest and most wretched amongst mortals, I will relate to you that which I know about Judas, the man of Kariot.”

This is a book that has been recovered from obscurity and finally made public. It contains deep insight into the lives of Jesus and Judas and clears the dust from a long misunderstood time in history. The book is divided into three parts, the first of which contains the real-life account of the journalist during WWII as he meets and develops a friendship with a mysteriously magnetic and affable man, who turns out to be Judas come Master. The second part contains the inspiring teachings of Judas, which are told in Mayan metaphor. In the third part, Judas relates his experience at the side of Nicodemus and his Master Jesus, 2000 years before. He also relates events which took place at the time, when he was chosen to play a role in the Cosmic Drama of the Holy Land, which brought him immense sorrow many centuries ago.

About his book, Armando Cosani himself wrote: “Certainly, this story doesn’t aim to be an autobiography. This was my friend’s will, and I’m carrying it out, not only because I gave my word, but because I notice something in all this that might have some value which escapes my understanding. It is possible that one of the readers may know what it is all about, and could perhaps explain this man to me.”

Prior to finding the Course, I spent nearly three decades reshaping my mind to free itself from the secondary effects, as I call them, of my Catholic upbringing. Effects from which I was determined to break-free very early on, as early as seven or eight years old. But one does not easily free herself from a religion of guilt without the help of a leading hand to light the way. In 1990, exactly 10 years before finding the Course and after studying Gnosis and other New Age and Eastern philosophies for a prior two decades, I received Armando Cosani’s book as a gift from one of my brothers who was also a Gnostic teacher and who had been my first teacher in esoteric subjects as a child and adolescent.