My salvation comes from me.

In his workshops, spiritual teacher Jiddu Krishnamurti (1895-1986) often demonstrated how quick we are to seek our salvation outside of us. He invited his students to put an object with some spiritual connotation on their mantelpiece – it could be a photograph of a guru, or a candle, or a plastic flower, or an ivory statuette, you name it. Then he suggested that they repeat a mantra twice a day for a month while focusing on the object. The mantra didn’t matter – it could be Om or it could be ‘Coca-cola’. After a month of daily practice, the object at hand has become extraordinarily holy to you. Even Course students who already realize that they’re still seeking salvation outside of themselves, are often surprised to notice the strength of such conditioning, when they try this exercise.

A Course in Miracles is very clear in stating that salvation – i.e., the attainment of inner peace and the perception of the real world – is not to be found in the physical world of time and space, but only through actively choosing to be right-minded, that is, practicing true forgiveness. See especially Workbook lesson 70, from which this blog post borrows its title. “My salvation comes from me.” Ken Wapnick has elaborated on what “me” refers to, as some people like to have “me” refer to Jesus in this case. Salvation is not found in Jesus, but in our minds’ capacity to choose to follow his advice to us. The trouble is that we are inclined to invite Jesus into our dream and have him fix things here. Yet Jesus can only help us if we are willing to bring our minds outside our dream. Lesson 189 offers an apt summary of how to do this (W.189.7): “Be still, and lay aside all thoughts of what you are and what God is; all concepts you have learned about the world; all images you hold about yourself. […] Forget this world, forget this course, and come with wholly empty hands unto your God.” This is the same effect Maharishi Mahesh Yogi describes in his book on transcendental meditation “The science of being and the art of living” (published, by the way, in 1963, two years before the scribing of A Course in Miracles began). Through finding this silence, we clear our minds so that the voice of the Holy Spirit, Who is always there, can finally be heard.

You can make this choice any time, but you won’t be motivated to do so until you fully believe that this choice is the “royal road” to your salvation. We need to be very honest with ourselves about how we have defined “salvation” for our little self, meaning the body that we all still so thoroughly identify with. In lesson 91, Jesus seriously invites us to reconsider the notion that we are our body, and to shift our faith from the body to the mind: “Faith goes to what you want, and you instruct your mind accordingly. Your will remains your teacher. […] You can escape the body if you choose” (W.91.5:4) To which Ken pointedly adds that this does not refer to out-of-body-experiences, but to our power to escape from the thought system of the body. The same lesson also emphasizes that we won’t do this unless we can “reach an experience of something more solid and more sure; more worthy of our faith, and really there.” (W.91.7:4) This is exactly what the above-mentioned practice offers: our growing awareness of our true Identity as pure Spirit.

What is the consequence of accepting this meaning of salvation? In lesson 70 about this topic, we read that the “seeming cost” is that it means that nothing outside of myself can save me; nothing outside can give me peace. But it also means that nothing outside me can disturb my peace or hurt me in any way, if I so choose. Jesus adds that “today’s idea places you in charge of the universe, where you belong because of what you are [pure Spirit].” (W70.2:3). To boost our motivation a little further, Jesus reminds us that none of our idols ever lasted, and that we have never found anything in the dark cloud patterns of the wrong mind we imagined that endured. All illusions of salvation have failed us. It is only because we cherish our little individuality so much that we keep looking for salvation in the physical world, where it cannot be found. Please don’t start to feel guilty now – it’s a very common disorder that some seven billion people still cling to.

The conclusion is not that we shouldn’t be involved in the physical world of time and space. We just need to stop looking for our salvation in there. The realization that all your special relationships and all your special hobbies, attachments and passions – idols, really – will not lead to salvation, does not mean that you should forego all mindful involvement in the world. You and I were born with our own unique talents, and for a good reason. Once we really succeed in hearing the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit (our true intuitive voice), our actions will be directed to put our talents to use in the most effective way imaginable. We will be very helpful to those who are meant to cross our life’s path. This equates the Eastern notion of “living in Dharma“: lovingly deploying your own talents to make yourself and others happy, without any strings attached. Your salvation comes from you and only from you, indeed – if we are willing to keep practicing forgiveness.


Also see my seven “guidelines for living in an illusory world” in “Miracles or Murder: a guide to concepts of A Course in Miracles”. This guidebook is published in March 2016 by Outskirts Press and is now available at Amazon.com:

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The victim gland

A humorous columnist, while commenting about the ever-increasing expenditure on healthcare, noted that too many people seem to be suffering from an enlarged “victim gland”. These otherwise well-meaning people prefer to believe that physical health is something that’s controllable only to a very limited extent – the most horrible diseases can strike at any given time, so don’t dare to hold them responsible for their health! Although the remark was tongue-in-cheek, in psychology this is a well-known dynamic. Seeing yourself as the victim of forces beyond your control provides for a seemingly valid excuse not to take responsibility. This can be responsibility for your health, for your income, for your relationships, etc. Many personal development programs focus mainly on fueling your own motivation to take responsibility for actively improving such areas of your life.

In A Course in Miracles, this is a key notion as well, only here it deals with guarding our own thoughts. In (T-26.X.4) we read: “Beware of the temptation to perceive yourself unfairly treated. In this view, you seek to find an innocence that is not Theirs (God’s and Christ’s) but yours alone, at the cost of someone else’s guilt.” This ‘someone else’ can include your spouse, your parents, the government, or even minute bacteria; you name it. And in the final chapter in the Textbook, we again read about our perceived “face of innocence” (T-31.V.3): “the world is wicked and unable to provide the love and shelter innocence deserves. And so this face [of innocence] is often wet with tears at the injustices the world accords to those who would be generous and good.” Again, we silently shout: “don’t dare to hold me responsible for my lack of happiness!”

Peel one layer off, and we’ll find the real psychological viciousness that this face of innocence covers: (T31.V.5): “Beneath the face of innocence is a lesson that the concept of the self was made to teach. […] The lesson is this: ‘I am the thing you made of me, and as you look upon me, you stand condemned because of what I am’. On this conception of the self the world smiles with approval, for it guarantees the pathways of the world are safely kept, and those who walk on them will not escape. Here is the central lesson that ensures your brother is condemned eternally.” God will regard me as the innocent victimized soul; I will be accepted back to Heaven and others will be punished. The ego par excellence!

We all suffer from an enlarged victim gland, or so we secretly believe about ourselves, ensuring we can keep enjoying our individual little self. You can tell this is true by your own progress in applying the message of A Course in Miracles, or, if you’re not an ACIM student, your progress in your own personal or spiritual development. Yes, you would be much further on your Journey already, if it hadn’t been for [insert a dozen valid reasons here]. The bottom line is that we don’t follow through simply because we are so incredibly attached to our individual little self! As author Joe Dispenza challenges each of us: “Ask yourself honestly: who would you be without your problems?” Our imperfections define our individuality, as painful as this may be at times.

One of the major learning goals of ACIM, indeed of most spiritualities, is to completely reverse the thought system in our mind: to begin to realize that the ego that we so cherish leads to nothing but misery, while accepting the guidance of Jesus (or the Holy Spirit) leads inevitably to the inner peace “that is not of this world” (meaning non-duality, outside time and space). Enlarging the victim gland is our choice for littleness; completely forgetting the victim gland is a choice to accept our collective Self as Extension of God’s Love as our ultimate Identity. That’s why Jesus remarks in (W-133.2): “You do not ask too much of life, but far too little”. Or, quoting Marianne Williamson: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate; our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure”, to which I add: but without an individual self. That’s the terror.

Once we seriously realize how much we’re attached to our individual victim gland, feelings of guilt usually surface. “What a lousy spiritual learner I turn out to be”, we sigh in depression. Cheer up! As Ken Wapnick repeatedly remarks, this is a great point to reach once we realize that this is simply the ego’s next strategy to keep us from awakening. If we have unmasked the ego’s victimization brainwash, it’ll find other ways to sustain our feelings of guilt, thereby making sure we’ll keep preferring individuality. Learn to be gentle about your distress! As you progress with A Course in Miracles, you learn to not let guilt depress you, but to switch on the observer “above the battleground”, and gently smile lightheartedly at this silliness. it’s a very common “disorder” that we all share, and that’s easily ‘cured’ simply by giving up attack thoughts and making room for the voice of the Holy Spirit. Once you practice following up on His advice (ask Him as often as possible during the day), you’ll never feel victimized again.


Also see my seven “guidelines for living in an illusory world” in “Miracles or Murder: a guide to concepts of A Course in Miracles”. This guidebook is published in March 2016 by Outskirts Press and is now available at Amazon.com:

buy-now-amazon-button

“Miracles or murder” has been endorsed by Gary Renard and Cindy Lora-Renard: “Jan-Willem’s book is a wonderful summary and recap of the key concepts in A Course in Miracles, furthering one’s understanding and meaning behind this non-dualistic teaching. All the essential elements are brought together with the author pointing out a key theme in the Course, which is the understanding and practice of true Forgiveness. We highly recommend this book as a helpful complement to the teachings of the Course.”

This blog aims at further clarifying the message of this guidebook. It is hoped this will help to speed up your spiritual journey Home.

Desperate calls for Love

If there’s one constant factor in the history of mankind, it’s the urge to attack whenever we feel threatened. Assault, regardless of the form it takes, calls for justice – which in practice means vengeance. And so we attack and counter-attack, and nothing has ever really improved, as ten thousand years of human history illustrate. The ego was born as the idea of condemnation of Oneness; it was born as the choice for attack and separation, and therefore that’s the mechanism that fuels the history books as long as time endures.

“Now don’t be overly pessimistic,” you might say, “there have been plenty examples of great souls who were able to bring some peace on a large scale.” It’s true; we all know many of such examples. As A Course in Miracles teaches, we always have the option of choosing between the wrong mind (ego) and the right mind (Inner Teacher, or Holy Spirit). It’s that inherent free will to choose a better way that guarantees there’s still hope for mankind, or, as ACIM puts it, this guarantees that the ego will not prevail.

When perceiving attack (anything from a disapproving look to a civil war; the form is irrelevant) from the perspective of the Holy Spirit, such attack gets a decidedly different meaning: we see in it a desperate call for Love. On the level of form that our senses perceive, the attack can viciously hurt bodies with horrible consequences, but on the level of content the attacker silently screams: “Please tell me that I am wrong in separating from Oneness. Please, please tell me that there is something better than this hell I’m in.” To be sure, it is a extremely distorted call, and not the most intelligent way to seek for love. It’s because of unconscious projection of anger, guilt and fear that the distinction goes unnoticed. Projection is what keeps this ego world go round.

This is not just psychological abstractness. We all know parents who at times become disproportionately upset with their children, even to the point of beating them, without realizing that they are merely acting out their own projected pain of never having received the love from their parents that they feel they deserved. As long as this mechanism remains hidden, chances are that the mistreated children repeat the same vicious cycle again and again.  Of course the parent does not really want to hurt the child: underneath the anger lies the desperate call for Love that is there but for the choosing, if only the right mind were activated. Since we do not realize that the anger symbolizes our ontological anger over God who fails to give us special love (because He does not know about duality), we keep projecting the pain.

A Course in Miracles further illustrates that the attack mechanism in a parent-child relationship is no different from a civil war or any conflict between states. To be sure, the form differs greatly, but the underlying content is one. Even the most detestable terrorist is unconsciously crying out for Love with each attack, albeit highly distorted. To the ego (the wrong mind), such a view is absurd: since it’s “kill or be killed”, all terrorists should be killed as soon as possible. We don’t want to see that our own attack thoughts become just as vicious as theirs. This way the ego makes sure that the separation will never be resolved.

The Holy Spirit would make us see that there is another choice: to give up attack thoughts and to ask the Holy Spirit instead what to do. This certainly does not mean that we should meekly let others walk all over us, but it does mean that if we, as decision maker, can muster the courage to decide to turn on the right mind, the Holy Spirit’s answer will turn out best for all involved. Once attack makes way for love and despair makes way for peace, it’s conceivable that the terrorist will cease to be a terrorist, finally undoing the downward spiral of hate. Choosing the right mind and following up on the Holy Spirit’s advice means denying the denial of the truth of our Oneness.

This point was illustrated beautifully in the 1982 movie about Gandhi. In one of the most emotional scenes near the end, when Gandhi lies weakened due to his hunger strike in an attempt to end the civil violence, a desperate man comes up to him and begs, no, commands him to eat. The man cries out that he himself will go to to hell anyway, because he killed a child – he smashed his head against the wall, all because the Muslim fighters had killed his own son. Gandhi, being totally in his right mind, replies calmly and compassionately: “I know a way out of hell. Find a child whose mother and father have been killed. A little boy the size of your son, and raise him as your own. Only be sure that he is a Muslim and that you raise him as one.” The man is flabbergasted as he slowly realizes there is a better way.

Such joining is God’s true church, and the beginning of the end of the ego’s reign, which has kept us in dualistic misery for thousands of years. We can escape this misery merely by giving up attack thoughts and learning to ask the Holy Spirit what to do. The answer cannot be but Love.


 

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Also see my seven “guidelines for living in an illusory world” in “Miracles or Murder: a guide to concepts of A Course in Miracles”. This guidebook is published in March 2016 by Outskirts Press and is now available at Amazon.com:

buy-now-amazon-button

“Miracles or murder” has been endorsed by Gary Renard and Cindy Lora-Renard: “Jan-Willem’s book is a wonderful summary and recap of the key concepts in A Course in Miracles, furthering one’s understanding and meaning behind this non-dualistic teaching. All the essential elements are brought together with the author pointing out a key theme in the Course, which is the understanding and practice of true Forgiveness. We highly recommend this book as a helpful complement to the teachings of the Course.”

This blog aims at further clarifying the message of this guidebook. It is hoped this will help to speed up your spiritual journey Home.

Cosmic musings, or forgiveness?

No doubt one of the most difficult aspects of A Course in Miracles lies in trying to fathom its metaphysical premises of non-duality. In Workbook lesson 158, for example, we read that “Time is a trick, a sleight of hand, a vast illusion in which figures come and go as if by magic.” (W-158.4:1) Time, according to ACIM (and to quantum physics, by the way), is ultimately not real. Moreover, the same is true of the three dimensions around us that we perceive as space. As if this is not enough, if we carefully read passages in ACIM about mind, it becomes clear that our essence – pure spirit as Love’s extension – is outside time and space as well. What makes this so difficult is that our linearly programmed brains just can’t picture this. If we cannot rely on time, space, and our sensory organs to report reality to us, however horrible the reports may sometimes be, what certainty is there in life to hold on to? An affirmation such as “Teach only love, for that is what you are” (T-6.I.13:2) may sound compelling, but only after we’ve taken care of Maslov’s necessaries of life. And even we if we do focus consistently on love, we do this still as an individual in the world of time and space where we believe our essence exists. How many of us can take a stroll in the park and really experience all living things as unseparated, united in the common purpose of the one Son of God?

What makes Jesus’ call twice as hard to hear, apart from the metaphysical abstractness, is our ego’s tremendous resistance to the possibility that this Oneness might just be the truth. ACIM repeatedly stresses that both time and space didn’t happen by circumstance; they were deliberately made by the ego to be able to hide from a supposedly wrathful Creator, to escape from His vengeful wrath over our cardinal sin to reject Him. Any scientist that still ponders the origins of the Big Bang would do well to study A Course in Miracles for the actual cause of the Big Bang, were it not that the ego resistance will find numerous ways to “falsify” Jesus’ message. After all, in the manual we read: “All terms are potentially controversial, and those who seek controversy will find it. Yet those who seek clarification will find it as well.” (M-C.In.2:1). The problem is that, while driven by the ego, we do not seek clarification; we seek complexity. This nicely serves the ego’s goal to keep us mindless: the more we ponder the complexity of the outside world, the less inclined we are to take an inward look at what our ego is actually up to. Moreover, the ego counsels us that if we do, considering Oneness would be the same as considering annihilation into nothingness. Hence the formidable task for Jesus as our elder brother to guide us on our Journey Home.

But is it a formidable task? “Let me remind you that time and space are under my control”, Jesus tells us in (T-2.VII.7). He has the advantage of looking at our silliness from outside space and time. Not only does Jesus assure us that time and space will have an end, but, and this is crucial, that its end will not be thrust upon us in some sort of Last Judgment; no, we will decide to choose to end time and space once and for all, not with regret but with a sigh of gratitude (M-10.9). This point will not be reached through theoretical musings. The reason we will choose this is that “Tolerance for pain may be high, but it is not without limit.  Eventually everyone begins to recognize, however dimly, that there must be a better way. As this recognition becomes more firmly established, it becomes a turning point.” (T-2.III.3). The “better way”, of course, is true forgiveness, by far the main subject in A Course in Miracles.

So if we ask questions like: “How could the ego ever have started if it is strictly impossible?”,  “How can time and space be illusory if we think these thoughts in time and space?”, then we’re falling into the trap of ego distractions. Such questions can only be asked by a mind that believes the ego is real. Pondering about ego complexity doesn’t bring spiritual clarity; it only thickens the dark mist that ensures we’ll never experience the vision of God’s Light. Instead, we should ask ourselves only one question: “Am I practicing forgiveness the way that Jesus asks me to?” Chapter 11 (“God or the ego”) especially brings this point home: “Ask yourself, therefore, but one simple question: “Do I want the problem or do I want the answer?” Decide for the answer and you will have it, for you will see it as it is, and it is yours already. You may complain that this course is not sufficiently specific for you to understand it and use it. Yet perhaps you have not done what it specifically advocates.” (T-11.I.4:6). What ACIM advocates, of course, is true forgiveness. And we would do well to realize that we have enormous ego resistance about forgiveness that we must honestly look at, before we’ll be able to actually practice true forgiveness.

Complex musings about the source of the ego, the universe, and the meaning of life only serve to keep us mindless a little longer. It’s a convenient distraction so we do not consider to examine the ego mechanisms that keep us rooted in time and space. We are not asked by Jesus to fully fathom the meaninglessness of time, space, and our bodily/sensory apparatus; we are merely asked to learn to love our brother like ourselves, with the help of the Holy Spirit, while being fully aware of all the denial and projections that are inevitably involved. This is because of our fear of losing our individual self, which would be the ultimate result of wholly loving our brother like ourselves. Luckily, eventually everyone will realize there must be a better way than sin, guilt, and fear. How long it takes for this to happen is completely irrelevant – just ask yourself one simple question: Am I choosing to practice true forgiveness today? 


See also my recently published book “Miracles or Murder: a guide to concepts of A Course in Miracles“, available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.