Monday, December 18, 2006

The Main Thing

The other day, searching through a bureau drawer looking for something else, I came across an old business card I had made for myself long before coming to Endeavor Academy and waking up from the dream through the mind-training of A Course in Miracles, the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and the tutelage of Master Teacher.

On the front of the card was, typically, my name, address, and phone number, and I turned it over, chuckling, when I saw what was on the back:


At the time I thought that this was the coolest expression of the highest reaches of my conceptual thought. I can't quite remember how I defined the main thing. It was probably couched in New Age terminology and Attitudinal Healing principles, like the main thing is to strive to keep a peaceful feeling, a cool head, a balance. For example, if you are confronted with a negative situation, you can choose either to go into reaction and stay in conflict, or to go into acceptance and experience peace. It is always a choice--reaction or acceptance, never questioning that the situation itself was unreal, made up by a self having no source in reality.

I probably tried to express this attempt at self-control by quoting the beginning lines of a poem I favored at the time, Rudyard Kipling's IF.

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you

But make allowance for their doubting too,. . .

To keep your head is an expression of acceptance.

I can vaguely remember expressing this while smoking pot with my friends, and of course my memory is vague because, unlike Clinton, I did inhale. I think I remember my friends nodding in assent, saying things like, “I never thought of it that way,” and “That’s heavy,” and my personal favorite, “That’s groovy.”

I was probably then inspired to quote the last four lines of Kipling's poem because it ends with such a manly flourish.

If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run -

Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,

And - which is more - you'll be a Man my son!

And invariably, one of them would sit pondering this great truth, holding onto the joint much too long, until someone yelled out, "Hey, don't Bogart that joint," and we would all laugh, and I would lose my train of thought, take a sip of wine, and begin to get the munchies.

And now, many years later, I am so grateful. enjoying a natural high, finding a place in my mind that is a reference point outside of the dream where I can rest, and hanging out with brothers in this state makes the slightest thing-- eating lunch together, or dancing after Session, or playing cards--, an occasion to look at each other and laugh and say, "There's only one thing to do now and that's party on."

That's because I have come to know that there is no world, and that making up a world in which my false self can choose this over that is a meaningless child's game, bringing not peace, but pain, because resolving the duality by choosing this over that only perpetuates the illusion.

I have come to know truly what the main thing is and how to express it simply.

Recognize that the self I made has no source in reality
ask the Holy Spirit for help to forgive this unreality
in order to
experience the reality of my True Self.

Relinquish the self I made
accept my Self as created by God.

Nothing real can be threatened.
Nothing unreal exists.

Herein lies the peace of God.

If I were now to make a business card, it would simply say on the back:


Merry Christmas.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

You are the mechanism of decision: With a glance, you make up an entire world: Part 1

From October 21, 1965 to October 10, 1968, Helen Schucman, the scribe of A Course in Miracles, wrote down the words of an internal voice, Jesus, the timeless voice of resurrected mind. (Master Teacher, Jesus is Speaking) These words constitute the Text of the Course.

At this point Helen had no idea that Jesus would dictate anything else. But over the next few months, she began to think that a Workbook would follow. From May 26, 1969 to February 18, 1971, she dutifully listened to Jesus speak to her the words of the Workbook. As Jesus says in His Introduction, The Text provides a theoretical foundation for the Workbook, a framework to make the exercises in this Workbook meaningful.

TheWorkbook is divided into two main sections, the first (Lessons 1-220) dealing with the undoing of the way you see now, and the second (Lessons 221-365) with the acquisition of true perception.

The purpose of the workbook is to train your mind in a systematic way to a different perception of everyone and everything in the world. (W-p1.Intro.1:1,3:1,4:1)

Where do you think Jesus begins this monumental task of mind training?

Jesus begins His lessons by confronting a truth that you take to be self-evident--that seeing is believing. You see in the world what you believe is there, and you believe it is there because you see it. This circular reasoning is your personal declaration of dependence. You hold this "truth" to be self-evident--you believe that the world of matter is external to your mind because you see it out there. This "truth" is buried in the very words we use. In fact, "evident" comes from the Latin, videre, meaning. "to see." The dictionary goes on to say, "Evident implies presence of visible signs that lead one self to a definite conclusion."

Jesus begins by forcing you to confront this premise with the title of His first lesson:

Nothing I see means anything.

This is where the undoing must begin, the dismantling of an entire belief system that you began to construct as a child with the positive reinforcement of those around you, particularly the adults. Here is the title to Lesson 2:

I have given everything I see all the meaning it has for me.

There is one sentence in Lesson 2 that stops me every time.

If possible, turn around and apply the idea to what was behind you. (1:5)

My God. . . what was behind you! So, I walked into the room, seeing this thing and that thing, and then I sat on the couch facing forward, looking out the window, and what I saw on the way in is not there now; it is not there until I turn around and look at it again!

We are only in Lesson 2, and Jesus is demonstrating to us that an object we believe to be in the external world is there only when we see it, evidently.

What was behind you, Dear Reader, is not there now.

This sentence came to mind again the other day when I watched a twenty-four minute film entitled, The Holographic Universe: Beyond Matter. (You can view it when you wish by clicking on the link at the end of this post.) Here are a few passages from the film relevant to us now, as we are engaged in the great undoing.

Man is conditioned right from the beginning of his life that the world he lives in has an absolute material reality. So he grows up under he effects of this conditioning and builds an entire life from this viewpoint.

At the instant of seeing, light clusters called photons travel from the object to the eye, where they are focused on the retina. Here rays are turned into electrical signals and turned into neurons at the back of the brain. The act of seeing actually takes place in this center of the brain. All the images we view in our lives are actually experienced in this dark place of a few cubic centimeters.

When we say we see, we actually see the effects of the rays being converted into electrical signals in our brain.

We view a colorful and bright world in our brain only as electrical signals.

We see an electrical copy and assume that this copy is real matter.

Perception is a mirror, not a fact. (W-p2.304.3)

You see what you are looking with.

Nothing I see means anything.

In a few cubic centimeters in the back of your brain you make up an entire world with just a glance. That's it. What is captured in that glance is all there is of the evident world. And just because you see it does not mean it exists; it just means that you made it up by the interaction of your visual apparatus, i.e., the electrical activity of the brain and the stimulus of the objects, interpreted by your thoughts.

“Perceive derives from the Latin, percipere, meaning, “to take thoroughly.” We take meaning, thoroughly, from what appears to be external by our interpretive thoughts.

Yet, Jesus tells us, These thoughts do not mean anything. (Lesson 7)

Jesus forces us to focus on the one thing that we can tangibly grasp, a glance.

Look around you, this time quite slowly. Try to pace yourself so that the slow shifting of your glance from one thing to another involves a fairly constant time interval. (W-p.1.12:2,3)

Each practice period should begin with a slow repetition of the idea for today (I do not know what anything is for) followed by looking about you and letting your glance rest on whatever happens to catch your eye, near or far, "important" or "unimportant," "human" or "nonhuman." (W-p1.25.6:2)

Jesus teaches us to let everything else go and just focus on one glance at a time. This makes the great task manageable.

Here are more passages from the film.

The bird we see is only an interpretation electrical signals in our brain. In reality this bird is not in the world but in our brain. If the sight nerves traveling to our brain were disconnected, we would no longer see the bird.

The only reality we cope with is the world of perceptions within our minds.

We believe in a world of objects just because we perceive them.

Our perceptions are only ideas in our minds, so objects are nothing but ideas, and these ideas are nowhere but in our minds. We are beguiled by our perceptions.

A glance is simply a combination of the electrical interaction between our brains and objects, and our interpretation of these impulses. This involves interpretation, associations, and judgment.

The following cartoon from The New Yorker humorously demonstrates how our interpretations and judgments determine what we see.

You see what you are looking with.

I do not understand anything I see in this room. (Lesson 3)

The point of the exercises is to help you clear your mind of all past associations, to see things exactly as they appear to you now, and to realize how little you really understand about them. It is therefore essential that you keep a perfectly open mind, unhampered by judgment, in selecting the things to which the idea for the day is to be applied. For this purpose one thing is like another; equally suitable and therefore equally useful.(W-p1.3.2)

These thoughts do not mean anything. (Lesson 4)

Merely glance casually around the world you perceive as outside yourself, then close your eyes and survey your inner thoughts with equal casualness. Try to remain equally uninvolved in both, and to maintain this detachment as you repeat the idea throughout the day. (W-p1.33.2)

The arbitrariness of what is seen in the physical universe is a function of the seeing apparatus interacting with the incoming data. This was brought home to me in a recent article in Sunday's Parade magazine entitled, Seeing the World as Your Pets Do. In this case, the number of color receptors in the vision apparatus determines what is seen.

If your dog could tell you what he sees, he'd probably describe a fuzzy world of blues and yellows in the daytime. In dim light, dogs can see more shades of grays than we can. Our eyes are better at discerning colorful details in daylight. We also can see things quite close up while dogs cannot. What makes the difference? Simply put, humans have more color receptors than dogs.

In contrast, your cat, a nighttime hunter, can see clearly in conditions six times darker than we can. Those vertical slit pupils allow a cat's eyes to take in more light at night. Given the type and number of their color receptors, cats probably view the world in a pastel palette and don't see some colors at all. An apple tree laden with red fruit, for example, would appear light-colored with dark apples to your cat. (Parade, October 15, 2006, p. 14)

Here are more passages from the film.

The act of seeing actually takes place in the center in the brain. All the images we view, and all the events we experience in our lifetime, are actually experienced in this tiny and dark place. Both the film you are now watching and the boundless landscape that you see when you gaze at the horizon actually fit in this place of a few cubic centimeters.

When we say we see, we actually observe only the electrical signals in our brain.

The brain is sealed to light and its interior is absolutely dark. It is never possible for the brain to contact with light itself.

You can see what we are up against. We are always only looking at a screen in the back of our heads, viewing our projections, and since we find it self-evident that seeing is believing, we have a lot of work to do. But remember, Jesus is providing us with a systematic mind training.

In Lesson 7, I see only the past, is a summary of the first six lessons.

This idea is particularly difficult to believe at first. Yet it is the rationale for all of the preceding ones.

1) It is the reason why nothing that you see means anything.
2) It is the reason why you have given everything you see all the meaning that it has for you.

3) It is the reason why you do not understand anything you see.

4) It is the reason why your thoughts do not mean anything, and why they are like the things you see.

5) It is the reason why you are never upset for the reason you think.

6) It is the reason why you are upset because you see something that is not there.
All that is required is that we practice with determination and perseverance. Along the way, analogies are useful. For example, We are such stuff as dreams are made on. (The Tempest) Here is another passage from the film.

If we are able to live easily in a dream the same thing can equally be true of the world we live in during our waking dream. When we wake up from a dream, there is no logical reason in not believing that we have entered a longer dream that we consider life. The reason we consider our sleeping dream to be unreal is nothing but a product of our prejudices.

When we begin to experience the unreality of our waking life, we begin to see how much it resembles our sleeping dreams. This analogy is so helpful because when you are lying in bed asleep, dreaming, you cannot very well blame anyone else for your dream, and no one else could possibly be dreaming your dream. It is a a very private affair. Your waking dream is no different. You are going it alone, and you are totally responsible.

I am responsible for what I see.
I choose the feelings I experience,
and I decide upon the goal I would achieve.
And everything that seems to happen to me I ask for,
and receive as I have asked. (T-21.11.2:3-5)

This is my statement of total responsibility for accepting my declaration of dependence on the premise that seeing is believing.

Good! Since you are totally responsible, you can learn to wake up to the truth of what you are, and that is also the value of the sleeping dream analogy. When you first wake up from a sleeping dream, it takes a moment to shake off the realness of it. But when you realize it was a dream, it is totally gone. The waking dream also fades in the moment of realization that seeing is not believing, and interpretation is not real. When you realize this, you simply shift to another place in your mind that is always, already present. You become aware of a state of mind that is your natural inheritance. When you by-pass, or forgive, the "I" of that interpreter, you become aware of "I" as created by God.

I am not a body. I am free.
For I am still as God created me. (Lesson 201)

I was created as the thing I seek. (Lesson 318:5)

I remain as God's son, even though I wandered off into believing that what I was seeing was real, and it was simply a projection of my brain, having no source in reality.

God is my Source. I cannot see apart from Him. (Lesson 43)

I cannot see apart from God, and I can learn to see with true perception, and that is where Jesus is leading me.

You see what you are looking with.

What we are searching for is the one that sees truly. (St. Francis)

This is truly the secret beyond matter.

We are nearing the end of Part 1. In order to undo the way you see now. Jesus necessarily had to make us aware of the fact that we are now seeing falsely. The good thing is that the way we see now, though false, can be used in such a way that we can learn to see with vision, the acquisition of true perception.

I urge you now to click on the link below to view the film, and I offer this caveat. The last four minutes attributes everything to Allah. Since I am unfamiliar with this tradition, I cannot comment. Rather, I do invite you to read the first four stanzas from the inspiring hymn written by the Swedish pastor, Carl Boberg in 1886, How Great Thou Art.

O Lord my God! When I in awesome wonder
Consider all the worlds Thy hands have made.
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power through-out the universe displayed.

Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee;
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!
Then sings my soul, My Savior God, to Thee:
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!

When through the woods and forest glades I wander
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees;
When I look down from lofty mountain grandeur
And hear the brook and feel the gentle breeze:

Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee;
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!
Then sings my soul, My Savior God, to Thee:
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!

Part 2 clearly and forcefully demonstrates how to forgive a glance and learn to see with vision.
To see the film, please click on the link below:

Click here to Watch Video

You are the mechanism of decision: Forgiving a glance and seeing with vision--Part 2

Now we know what we are up against, and it is nothing, simply electrical activity firing in a few cubic centimeters in the back of your head. This is classic problem solving. Once the problem is clearly defined, it can then be solved. Jesus tells us that the problem is the way you see now, and you solve it by forgiving it and acquiring true perception. Your current way of seeing exists for only a moment, and this moment is for giving away. Now that is forgiveness.

To be told that what you do not see is there (true perception) sounds like insanity. It is very difficult to become convinced that it is insanity not to see what is there, and to see what is not there instead. You do not doubt that the body's eyes can see. You do not doubt the images they show you are reality. Your faith lies in the darkness, not the light. How can this be reversed? For you it is impossible, but you are not alone in this. (W-p1.91.3)

Fortunately there is a plan, and you are not alone. The Holy Spirit provides the bridge between the illusions that you weave in your pea-brain and the magnificence of what you are.

The Holy Spirit mediates between illusions and the truth. Since He must bridge the gap between reality and dreams, perception leads to knowledge through the grace that God has given Him, to be His gift to everyone who turns to Him for truth. Across the bridge that He provides are dreams all carried to the truth, to be dispelled before the light of knowledge. There are sights and sounds forever laid aside. And where they were perceived before, forgiveness has made possible perception's tranquil end.

From knowledge, where He has been placed by God, the Holy Spirit calls to you, to let forgiveness rest upon your dreams, and be restored to sanity and peace of mind. Without forgiveness will your dreams remain to terrify you. And the memory of all your Father's Love will not return to signify the end of dreams has come. (7. What is the Holy Spirit? 1,4)

To understand exactly how the Holy Spirit teaches us to forgive requires a close look at the mind.

The term mind is used to represent the activating agent of spirit, supplying its creative energy. (C-1.1:1)

Spirit is the part that is still in contact with God through the Holy Spirit, Who abides in this part but sees the other part (the firing in the brain) as well. (C-1.3:1)

Even though there is only Spirit, we find ourselves referring to the individual mind, so that we can talk about what seems to be going on in our dream.

The other part of the mind is entirely illusory and makes only illusions. (C-4:1) This part is called wrong-mindedness.

Wrong-mindedness listens to the ego and makes illusions; perceiving sin and justifying anger, and seeing guilt, disease and death as real. (C-6:1) And, by now, you know where this is going on--a very, small, dark place in the mind.

Right-mindedness listens to the Holy Spirit, forgives the world, and through Christ’s vision sees the real world in its place. (C-5:1)

To compartmentalize the mind in this fashion makes it easier to understand undoing and true perception. The third term we are going to employ is consciousness.

Consciousness is the receptive mechanism, receiving messages from above or below; from the Holy Spirit or the ego. (C-7:3)

This is the answer to St. Francis’s search, What we are searching for is the one that sees truly. You are the one that sees; you are consciousness, you are as God created you. This is what it means to say that you are God's Son. I am the holy Son of God Himself. (Lesson 191) As consciousness, you constantly make decisions about whether to listen to the voice of wrong-mindedness, the ego, or to listen to the voice of right-mindedness, the true Self. That is why consciousness is the mechanism of decision. A mechanism is defined as "a process, technique, a system for achieving a result, responsible for action." This refers to an action of the mind, shifting from wrong- to right-mindedness, or unfortunately, from right to wrong, as well. When you shift from dreams to truth, you are cutting away illusions as if they never existed, and they never did. “Decision” comes from the Latin, decidere, “literally to cut off.”

Your mind is the means by which you determine your own condition, because mind is the mechanism of decision. It is the power by which you separate or join, and experience pain or joy accordingly. (T-8.IV.5:7,8)

A word is to the breath as a thought is to consciousness. This means that when you say a word it is carried by the breath, and when you have a thought, it is carried by the consciousness.

This is the consciousness that Jesus addresses in the Course. It is this awareness that often seems suspended between two choices, two voices, the ego’s, or the Holy Spirit’s, thoughts from below, or above. Throughout the Course, Jesus addresses this consciousness by using the pronoun “you.” In fact, the pronoun “you” appears in the Course 17,710 times. As we learned in grade school, a pronoun stands on behalf of a noun. Each time you come across “you,” you have to ask yourself, this "you" is standing on behalf of what noun, what exactly is the reference point?

There are only three choices: 1) consciousness completely allied with the noun, ego, seeing through the ego’s eyes; 2) consciousness standing in the middle as the noun phrase, mechanism of decision; and 3) consciousness joined, united with the noun, Self, seeing through the eyes of Christ.

In the beginning of the mind training, the “you” is allied completely with the ego, unaware that there is another choice. Here is an example. The pronoun “you” is used 14 times, and in each case the reference point is the unholy alliance of consciousness with the ego.

1) consciousness/ego:

As you look with open eyes upon your world, it must occur to you that you have withdrawn into insanity. You see what is not there, and you hear what makes no sound. Your manifestations of emotions are the opposite of what the emotions are. You communicate with no one, and you are as isolated from reality as if you were alone in all the universe. In your madness you overlook reality completely, and you see only your own split mind everywhere you look. (Just as the cow sees the frog as a cow, and the frog sees the cow as a frog, so do you see your self, or Self, wherever you look). Yet. . .God calls you and you do not hear, for you are preoccupied with your own voice. And the vision of Christ is not in your sight, for you look upon yourself alone. (T-13.V.6)

When you decide on behalf of the ego, you are making up an entire world by cutting away the Truth.

By this (decision) you carve it out of unity. (W-p1.184.1:3)

You see something where nothing is, and see as well nothing where there is unity. (W-p1.184.2:3)

Perception is a mirror, not a fact. (W-p2.304.3)

You see what you are looking with.

In the next paragraph, the point of reference of “you” (10 times) is the mechanism of decision.

2) consciousness/mechanism of decision:

Little child, would you offer this to your Father? For if you offer it to yourself, you are offering it to him. And he will not return it, for it is unworthy of you because it is unworthy of him. Yet he would release you from it and set you free. His sane Answer tells you what you have offered yourself is not true, but his offering to you has never changed. You who know not what you do can learn what insanity is, and look beyond it. It is given you to learn how to deny insanity, and come forth from your private world in peace. (T-V.7:1-7)

The Holy Spirit serves as a bridge by helping you decide to overlook, forgive the thoughts of the ego, and join with the true Self. In the following passage, Jesus demonstrates this joining. The reference point for “you” (8 times) is joined with the Christ.

3) consciousness/Self:

Do not seek vision through your eyes, for you made your way of seeing that you might see in darkness, and in this you are deceived. Beyond this darkness, and yet still within you, is the vision of Christ, Who looks on all in light. Your "vision" comes from fear, as his from love. And he sees for you, as your witness to the real world. He is the Holy Spirit's manifestation, looking always on the real world, and calling forth its witnesses and drawing them to you. He loves what he sees within you, and he would extend it. And he will not return unto the Father until he has extended your perception even unto him. And there perception is no more, for he has returned you to the Father with him. (T-13.V.9)

Dear Reader, all you are asked to do, and it is everything, is to practice becoming aware of your responsibility as a mechanism of decision to decide for God, cutting away from, disengaging from, the ego by asking the Holy Spirit for help to overlook, forgive, the images firing in a few cubic centimeters in a very dark place in your mind, and drawing nigh onto your God, learning to forgive one glance at a time.

Jesus directly addresses “you” as the mechanism of decision in the following passage, asking whether you will decide to be hostage to the ego or host to God?

I asked you earlier, "Would you be hostage to the ego or host to God? " Let this question be asked you by the Holy Spirit every time you make a decision. For every decision you make does answer this, and invites sorrow or joy accordingly. When God gave Himself to you in your creation, He established you as host to Him forever. He has not left you, and you have not left Him. All your attempts to deny His magnitude, and make His Son hostage to the ego, cannot make little whom God has joined with Him. Every decision you make is for Heaven or for hell, and brings you the awareness of what you decided for. (T-15.111.5)

Practice right now. Look up from what you are doing and take one glance. Consider the images and the interpretations and judgments for a moment, and then ask the Holy Spirit for help to let them all go. Now, look up, take a glance and this time simply look through the images, not even interpreting or judging, and experience the holy instant of being in the world, but not of the world, seeing with Christ’s vision, hosting God.

The Holy Spirit looks through me today. (Lesson 295)

Christ asks that He may use my eyes today,
and thus redeem the world. He asks this gift
that He may offer peace of mind to me,
and take away all terror and all pain.
And as they are removed from me, the dreams
that seemed to settle on the world are gone.
Redemption must be one. As I am saved,
the world is saved with me. For all of us
must be redeemed together. Fear appears
in many different forms, but love is one.

My Father, Christ has asked a gift of me,
and one I give that it be given me.
Help me to use the eyes of Christ today,
and thus allow the Holy Spirit's Love
to bless all things which I may look upon,
that His forgiving Love may rest on me.

This is a required Course.

Practice. Practice. I urge you to take 20 minutes right now to read the review of the first 50 lessons of A Course in Miracles.

Just click on the link below.

Click Here For Booklet

Thursday, August 03, 2006

We are not bodies; we are pure consciousness

The most puzzling thing about the aging process is that the mind receiving the thoughts of aging is changeless, eternal. That is, while the hair thins, the skin wrinkles, the eyes dim, the hearing diminishes, the muscles soften, the mind conscious of these thoughts is experienced exactly the same as when you were five years old. This consciousness is simply the receptive mechanism for thoughts. You are reading this sentence with this mechanism. It is eternal, constant, immortal. But the thoughts it carries are either of the spirit, or of the ego. This is the way Jesus says it in His Course in Miracles.

Thoughts can represent the lower or bodily level of experience or the higher or spiritual level of experience. One makes the physical, and the other creates the spiritual. (T-1.1.12)

These thoughts are experienced as a voice. It is always a matter of choice, which voice we attend to. When we choose to listen to the bodily-level thoughts, particularly as we get older, we are surprised because we experience the mind carrying them, and it is eternal, changeless, though we seem to change.

Here is an apt analogy: Your breath carries words, just as your mind carries thoughts. Words and thoughts may change, but breath is breath, and mind is mind. The medium is the message. You are eternally mind, just as God created you. Look at the connection between breath and words. Say the word "stop," observing what happens in your mouth. Your breath emerges from your larynx, giving it its tone. Then it hisses its way between the curve of your tongue and your upper palate, sounding the "s." Then the tip of your tongue snaps shut for a split-second, blocking your breath, for the "t." Your mouth opens for a moment, and your breath proceeds uninterrupted for the "o," sounding like "ah." Your lips suddenly close, then open, emitting a plosive "p," sounding like "puh." Thus does our breath carry our words, and our breath is a constant medium, whether it carries words of love, or words of fear. The tone may vary, but breath is breath.

Similarly, but without the physical mechanisms, does your mind carry thoughts. The thought of the peace of God flows through my mind, emanating from the Holy Spirit. Most appropriate for our analogy, "Spirit" comes from the Latin, spiritus, meaning "breath," from spirare, meaning "to blow, to breathe." Our minds are conduits, channeling the voice of the ego, or the Voice for God. Obviously, when we listen only to the Holy Spirit, we are in our right minds.

Right-mindedness listens to the Holy Spirit, forgives the world, and through Christ's vision sees the real world in its place. (C-1.5:2)

Until we learn to ask for help to forgive our lower-level thoughts, we are in our wrong minds.

Wrong-mindedness listens to the ego and makes illusions; perceiving sin and justifying anger, and seeing guilt, disease and death as real. (C-6:1)

And always we are minds; we are consciousness; we are as God created us.

Consciousness is the receptive mechanism, receiving messages from above or below; from the Holy Spirit or the ego. (C-7:3)

And now we have a reference point for this passage from Review V1:

I am not a body. I am free.
For I am still as God created me.

I am not these thoughts about this aging body. I am free to choose to align with the thoughts flowing through my mind, reminding me that I am the holy Son of God. I am still, both in the sense of continuing to be, and in the sense of the stillness, as God created me. I am the consciousness that I was before coming into this world, the consciousness while I am here for a moment, and the consciousness after I leave.

I will be still an instant and go home.

Why would I choose to stay an instant more
where I do not belong, when God Himself
has given me His Voice to call me home?

This is the way William Wordsworth (1770-1850) expresses it in a stanza in his Ode, Intimations of Immortality.

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life's Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar.
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home.

Meanwhile, the body serves simply as a vehicle for consciousness, carrying the breath of God, maintaining its health and vigor when the mind chooses to identify with the Word of God.

I am not a body. I am free. (Title, Lesson 199)

It is essential for your progress in
this course that you accept today's idea,
and hold it very dear. Be not concerned
that to the ego it is quite insane.
The ego holds the body dear because
it dwells in it, and lives united with
the home that it has made. It is a part
of the illusion that has sheltered it
from being found illusory itself.

Here does it hide, and here it can be seen
as what it is. Declare your innocence
and you are free. The body disappears,
because you have no need of it except
the need the Holy Spirit sees. For this,
the body will appear as useful form
for what the mind must do. It thus becomes
a vehicle which helps forgiveness be
extended to the all-inclusive goal
that it must reach, according to God's plan. (W-199.4,5)

The breath carries the words; thoughts flow through the mind. These are powerful metaphors. Metaphor comes from the Greek, pherein, "to bear, to carry," and the Latin meta, meaning "beyond, transcending." In this case, these metaphors serve to carry the meaning, transcending the physical. This means that what we are is eternal, created by God, expressed as soul, our life's Star, pure consciousness, Light, Love, Self, God's Son, Christ's mind, Spirit.

I am spirit. (Title, Lesson 97)

Today's idea identifies you with your one Self. It accepts no split identity, nor tries to weave opposing factors into unity. It simply states the truth. Practice this truth today as often as you can, for it will bring your mind from conflict to the quiet fields of peace. No chill of fear can enter, for your mind has been absolved from madness, letting go illusions of a split identity.

We state again the truth about your Self, the holy Son of God Who rests in you; whose mind has been restored to sanity. You are the spirit lovingly endowed with all your Father's Love and peace and joy. You are the spirit which completes Himself, and shares His function as Creator. He is with you always, as you are with Him.

Spirit am I,
a holy Son of God,
free of all limits,
safe and healed and whole,
free to forgive,
and free to save the world. (7:2)

And that is the state of mind I rest in, the only state there is.

Being There

For some reason, I wasn’t able to publish this article just after writing it, and I let it rest in draft form for a couple of days. Now, I know why. I was knocked down by some sort of viral infection, and I basically went to bed for five days. Sparing you the details of nausea, dehydration, and sheer exhaustion, I will tell you that the days and nights blended into one big snooze.

But the most remarkable thing is that during this entire time, my mind was clear, and I was in the continuous experience of the peace of God. And that’s why the article could not be finished until now. During this episode, I was in the direct experience of not being a body. Although I was going through considerable stress at the bodily level, I was free, completely unaffected. What kept coming to mind was the word “constancy.” It is not something I strived for, it is the state of mind that I found myself in, for that is what we are, as created by God. It is the direct experience of not being a body, but of being this state of mind, of being in the world, but not of the world.

Maintaining this constancy is all I ask for now because that is all there is. Everything else is of my own making and does not exist. I ask for help to remain constant, and not to be tempted by everything else.

God is my Father, and He loves His Son. (Title, Lesson 224)

My true Identity is so secure,
so lofty, sinless, glorious and great,
wholly beneficent and free from guilt,
that Heaven looks to It to give it light.
It lights the world as well. It is the gift
my Father gave to me; the one as well
I give the world. There is no gift but This
that can be either given or received.
This is reality, and only This.
This is illusion's end. It is the truth.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

A Bird in the Hand, and the Peace of God

This afternoon, just after a soft rain, I went out to fill my birdfeeder, suspended from a branch, hanging about five feet off the ground, face high. As I was walking towards it, a bird came hopping headfirst down the tree trunk, and reaching the bottom, it suddenly flew to the feeder. It was a white-breasted Nuthatch, slate gray with a white face and belly, a black cap and nape, with a long, thin bill, slightly upturned.

I stopped about five feet from him and became very still, watching him peck at the seeds. After a few minutes, I took one step, totally focused on the busy bird. A few minutes later, another step. Then, later, another. He eyed me from time to time, as if to say hello.

My mind was totally still, focused like a laser. I reached ever so slowly into a bag I was carrying and took out a handful of black sunflower seeds. I extended my hand until it was right next to the feeder, palm up, my thumb touching the bottom rim. The Nuthatch, one inch from my hand, looked at the seeds, cocked his head at me, and leaned down, pecking at them. Then, he gently stepped into my palm, pecking and eating, his pecks ever so soft.

He became still, his eyes blinking less and less, satiated, appearing almost to drift off to sleep.

My mind was so still, no thoughts, no sounds, no world, an overwhelming sense of well being, vibrating in the frequency of the peace of God.

I slowly moved my thumb next to his breast, feeling his heartbeating through his downy feathers.

The hush of Heaven holds my heart today. (Title, Lesson 286)

I drew my hand away from the feeder and closer to my chest, still palming the nesting bird.

While I am experiencing the peace of God, the Nuthatch is a bright reflection of my still, heavenly mind.

In you is all of Heaven. Every leaf
that falls is given life in you. Each bird
that ever sang will sing again in you.
And every flower that ever bloomed has saved
its perfume and its loveliness for you.
What aim can supersede the Will of God
and of His Son,
that Heaven be restored to him for whom
it was created as his only home?
Nothing before and nothing after it.
No other place; no other state nor time.
Nothing beyond nor nearer. Nothing else.
In any form. This can you bring to all
the world, and all the thoughts that entered it
and were mistaken for a little while.
How better could your own mistakes be brought
to truth than by your willingness to bring
the light of Heaven with you, as you walk
beyond the world of darkness into light? (T-25.1V.5)

And then, he gently lifted off, flying to a nearby branch.

Peace be to you, my brother.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

In Anticipation of Shiners: Bright Reflections of the Peace of God

I came across this statement a long time ago, and every once in a while, it comes to mind again. "Whether you are looking into a microscope, or into a telescope, you are always seeing only what is inside the back of your head." I like that. It is a reminder that whether you are looking at little things, or big things, you are always only looking into a mirror, and what you see can only be a reflection of your state of mind.

The truth is that there is only one state of mind, the peace of God. As Jesus' Course in Miracles teaches, you are as God created you. But sometimes there appears to be another, an ego state of mind, projecting hell, sin, grievances, and darkness.

Your picture of the world can only mirror what is within. The source of neither light nor darkness can be found without. Grievances darken your mind, and you look out on a darkened world. Forgiveness lifts the darkness, reasserts your will, and lets you look upon a world of light. W-p1.73.5:1-4

But in this moment we are asking for help to experience the only time there is, now.

The holy instant is this instant and every instant. The one you want it to be it is. The one you would not have it be is lost to you. You must decide when it is. Delay it not. For beyond the past and future, where you will not find it, it stands in shimmering readiness for your acceptance. T-15.1V.1:8

When we are accepting, we become a spotless mirror.

In this world you can become a spotless mirror, in which the holiness of your Creator shines forth from you to all around you. You can reflect Heaven here. Yet no reflections of the images of other gods must dim the mirror that would hold God's reflection in it. Earth can reflect Heaven or hell; God or the ego. You need but leave the mirror clean and clear of all the images of hidden darkness you have drawn upon it. God will shine upon it of himself. Only the clear reflection of himself can be perceived upon it. T-14.1X.5

I experienced a powerful metaphor for God's shining when I was in high school in Three Rivers, Michigan. Every morning I walked the twelve blocks to school, and about half-way there, I crossed a rather high bridge over the Rocky, one of the three rivers that gave our small town its name. On a sunny day I would stop and stare into the dark, murky river, looking for silvery flashes of light. Every once in a while a shiner, a bottom-feeding fish, would turn on its side, producing a silver flash as it caught the sun's reflection.

A metaphor serves to carry (phor) beyond (meta) the meaning of a specific occurrence. We are always looking into a mirror, and just as the sun is reflected in the shiner's silvery side, so is our state of mind of the peace of God reflected in what we look upon.

The great peace of the Kingdom shines in your mind forever, but it must shine outward to make you aware of it. T-6.12:12 Then let the Holy One shine on you in peace, knowing that this and only this must be. His mind shone on you in your creation and brought your mind into being. His mind still shines on you and must shine through you. T-4.1V.9

And now these many years later, coming across shining passages in poetry is like spotting shiners in the dark water. Robert Browning (1812-1889) must have looked out from a peaceful state to see these bright reflections.

The year's at the spring
And day's at the morn;
Morning's at seven;
The hill-side's dew-pearled
The lark's on the wing;
The snail's on the thorn;
God's in his Heaven -
All's right with the world!
Pippa Passes (1841)

For a moment, in this forgiving state of mind, Browning saw these shinings.

Forgiveness turns the world of sin into
a world of glory, wonderful to see.
Each flower shines in light, and every bud
sings of the joy of Heaven. T-26.1V.2:1,2

Here's a first line from William Wordsworth (1770-1850).

My heart leaps up when I behold
a rainbow in the sky.
from The Rainbow

And from Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889).

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil.
from God's Grandeur

To feel the Love of God
within you is to see the world anew,
shining in innocence, alive with hope,
and blessed with perfect charity and love. W-p1.189.1:7
It offers you its flowers and its snow,
in thankfulness for your benevolence. 2:6

Now here are some flowers from Wordsworth.


I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed - and gazed - but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

In his heightened state of awareness, experiencing the peace of God, Wordsworth imagines himself out of his body, floating through the sky, wandering like a cloud. He is doubly blessed because he sees the daffodils first in nature, and then, later, in his mind.

Finally, look at the state of mind John Keats was in, despite the fact that he lay dying of tuberculosis in Rome at the age of twenty-six. (1795-1821)


When Keats, at last beyond the curtain
of love’s distraction, lay dying in his room
on the Piazza di Spagna, the melody of the Bernini
Fountain “filling him like flowers,”
he held his breath like a coin, looked out
into the moonlight and thought he saw snow.
He did not suppose it was fever or the body’s
weakness turning the mind. He thought, “England!”
and there he was, secretly, for the rest
of his improvidently short life: up to his neck
in sleigh bells and the impossibly English cries
of street vendors, perfect
and affectionate as his soul.
For days the snow and statuary sang him so far
beyond regret that if now you walk rancorless
and alone there, in the piazza, the white shadow
of his last words to Severn, “Don’t be frightened,”
may enter you.
Christopher Howell

Keats knew full well that There is no death. The Son of God is free. (Title, Lesson 163)
That is why he saw such bright reflections. You can hear him saying this prayer.

Our Father, bless our eyes today. We are
Your messengers, and we would look upon
the glorious reflection of Your Love
which shines in everything. We live and move
in You alone. We are not separate
from Your eternal life. There is no death,
for death is not Your Will. And we abide
where You have placed us, in the life we share
with You and with all living things, to be
like You and part of You forever. We
accept Your Thoughts as ours, and our will
is one with Yours eternally. Amen. W-p1.163. 9


Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Seeing what is not there, and learning to see what is there.

It is hard to get around the fact that we are inveterate storytellers, narrating our lives. We constantly look out at the world and make up stories about what we perceive. Here's an example. Look at this picture and pay close attention to the thoughts going through your mind.

I am so grateful for a friend of mine, Lucy, who told me the elaborate story that went through her mind when she first saw the janitor, actually "Janitor," (1973) a hyper-realistic figure made of polyester and cast fiberglass by Duane Hanson.

Here is her story.

Last week I visited the Milwaukee Art Museum at the recommendation of a friend. There was one particular painting he suggested I see and on the way to the exhibit I passed a man who was evidently a janitor as he had keys hanging from his belt and wearing a workman's hat. What struck me about him was that he looked so very forlorn and depressed. He was leaning against the wall and in that one cursory glance, I just knew he needed help badly. Maybe he was even suicidal.

Ah well, I think and proceed to see the picture my friend had recommended, but my mind was crowded with thoughts about the janitor. I thought if I bumped into him again I would try to cheer him up. He was probably an alcoholic - it takes one to know one, and I can spot an alchy a mile away - no doubt he was at his bottom and I remember when someone reached out a helping hand to me - I'll be forever grateful for him taking me to an AA Meeting. On the other hand, maybe he lost a loved one, I know how I felt when my Dad died, or could be he just have gotten fired, I sure know how that feels - Naw, you wouldn't be that depressed over a maintenance job. Prostate problems? That could do it... Ah well, forget it, I said to myself...or maybe he had a mental breakdown and was bottoming out. Forget it!

After touring the next floor up, the man was gone from my mind. That is, until I looked over the balcony and saw him standing right where I left him 15 minutes ago. Oh God, if ever there was a call for savior genes kicked in, and I knew I had a mission - I was about to turn around to take the elevator and go down and speak with him. If ever there was a call for help...

As I was turning around I saw the floor guard and said to him, "That guy down there really looks like he could use some help, he's been leaning against that wall for a long time." The guard said with an obvious grin, "Read the sign". At the end of the wall was a sign, "Do not touch the artwork".

My red face would have made a good exhibit. It didn't ease the embarrassment when he told me, "You're not the first person who got fooled, we had to put up that sign."

Wow. Some story. You can probably relate to Lucy's story by recalling the thoughts that went through your mind when you looked at the picture. I know that you, too, began to tell a story because that is how the perceptual mind works. You can become aware of how it works only by slowing it way down. If you were to look at your perceptions in slow motion, you would see that it is always a case of put and take. You first put it out there by projection, from the Latin, projectum, meaning "to throw," and, secondly, you perceive it, from the Latin, percipere, meaning "to take." You are always perceiving outside what is first inside.

This is in accord with perception's fundamental law: You see (take) what you believe is there, and you believe it there because you want (put) it there.

This gives whole new meaning to the word "mistake." A mistake is simply a wrong take; you have mistaken illusion for truth.

Lucy's story and this explanation of how our minds work provide a context for this paragraph from Jesus' Course in Miracles, an unworldly masterpiece solely devoted to teaching you how to undo your perceptual thought system.

Projection makes perception. The world you see is what you gave it, nothing more than that. But though it is no more than that, it is not less. Therefore, to you it is important. It is the witness to your state of mind, the outside picture of an inward condition. As a man thinketh, so does he perceive. Therefore, seek not to change the world, but choose to change your mind about the world. Perception is a result and not a cause. And that is why order of difficulty in miracles is meaningless. Everything looked upon with vision is healed and holy. Nothing perceived without it means anything. And where there is no meaning, there is chaos.T-21.Intro.

It's obvious that Lucy's perceptions were colored primarily by her experiences as a recovering alcoholic, the outside picture of an inward condition. Remembering the help she gratefully received, she was more than willing to extend help to this forlorn and depressed man, maybe he was bottoming out; maybe a loved one died; perhaps he was fired, could be prostate.
As a man thinketh...

We have to slow down the making up of stories because we are up against a process so challenging. Here is a list of 25 words that characterize the perceptual process of putting and taking:

automatic, habitual, regular, natural, casual, normal, familiar, comfortable, customary, ordinary, universal, persistent, consistent, unconscious, rapid, repetitious, addictive, chronic, patterned, programmed, inveterate, arbitrary, hypnotic, subjective

And one of my favorites is a play on "taken for granted," "taken for granite," thinking that what we take for real is solid as a rock.

You can see what we are up against. This is the human condition. You can't very well nudge another human and expect him to get you out of here because he is doing the same thing you are. It's normal, regular, universal. . . He'd probably nudge you back, saying, "Don't rock the boat."

But if you really want a way out, Jesus will more than nudge you, actually, if you pick up His Course in Miracles, He will forcefully tell you right at the beginning of His Workbook to say to yourself:

Lesson 1, Nothing I see means anything.

This is so because I am projecting first and seeing second.

Lesson 2, I have given everything I see all the meaning it has for me.

Lucy's personal history is projected onto the "Janitor."

Lesson 3, I do not understand anything I see.

I am seeing only through the lens of my narrow frame of reference, the body's eyes.

And there are 362 lessons to go as the days follow the nights for one year. That's why it is a required Course. We are required to undo the natural, regular way of seeing through the body's yes, so that we can learn to see through the eyes of Christ, learning to see with vision.

I will not use the body's eyes today.

Father, Christ's vision is Your gift to me,
and it has power to translate all that
the body's eyes behold into the sight
of a forgiven world. How glorious
and gracious is this world! Yet how much more
will I perceive in it than sight can give.
The world forgiven signifies Your Son
acknowledges his Father, lets his dreams
be brought to truth, and waits expectantly
the one remaining instant more of time
which ends forever, as Your memory
returns to him. And now his will is one
with Yours. His function now is but Your Own,
and every thought except Your Own is gone.

The quiet of today will bless our hearts,
and through them peace will come to everyone.
Christ is our eyes today. And through His sight
we offer healing to the world through Him,
the holy Son whom God created whole;
the holy Son whom God created One.

My projections are truly dreams, and these dreams can be replaced by truth through my forgiveness of that which is so automatic, habitual, and so forth. It just takes practice.

Nothing I see means anything.

It is just a matter of letting go, and this is the heart of Jesus' Course, forgiveness.

An unforgiving thought does many things.
In frantic action it pursues its goal,
twisting and overturning what it sees
as interfering with its chosen path.
Distortion is its purpose, and the means
by which it would accomplish it as well.
It sets about its furious attempts
to smash reality, without concern
for anything that would appear to pose
a contradiction to its point of view.

"Janitor" becomes a forlorn and depressed janitor.

Forgiveness, on the other hand, is still,
and quietly does nothing. It offends
no aspect of reality, nor seeks
to twist it to appearances it likes.
It merely looks, and waits, and judges not.
He who would not forgive must judge, for he
must justify his failure to forgive.
But he who would forgive himself must learn
to welcome truth exactly as it is.

Do nothing, then, and let forgiveness show
you what to do, through Him Who is your Guide,
your Savior and Protector, strong in hope,
and certain of your ultimate success.
He has forgiven you already, for
such is His function, given Him by God.
Now must you share His function, and forgive
whom He has saved, whose sinlessness He sees,
and whom He honors as the Son of God.
W-p11. What is forgiveness? 3-5

Jesus guides us from projecting through the body's eyes to seeing with the eyes of Christ, from being chained to being free. All we need to do is practice.

Today we practice letting go all thought
of values we have given to the world.
We leave it free of purposes we gave
its aspects and its phases and its dreams.
We hold it purposeless within our minds,
and loosen it from all we wish it were.
Thus do we lift the chains that bar the
door to freedom from the world, and go beyond
all little values and diminished goals.

Pause and be still a little while, and see
how far you rise above the world, when you
release your mind from chains and let it seek
the level where it finds itself at home.
It will be grateful to be free a while.
It knows where it belongs. But free its wings,
and it will fly in sureness and in joy
to join its holy purpose. Let it rest
in its Creator, there to be restored
to sanity, to freedom and to love.

When Lucy asked for help to forgive her perceptual thoughts, she immediately saw the janitor as "Janitor," and in that moment the janitor was her Savior. For that moment, she was saved from her story. In that recognition, she could let it all go and realize again, because she is well-trained, having immersed herself in the Course for many years, that she is as God created her, she is the holy child of God, and in this state of mind she can look out at the world with the eyes of Christ, looking through the mirror of her mind, seeing with vision, brightly.

For a similar take on listening to your narrative voice, please read an article I wrote some time ago, entitled "In the beginning was the word: Dispelleing Once upon a time," by clicking on the link below:

Thursday, May 18, 2006

"Being Deep Stillness," a poem in blank verse.

While an evening in early fall slowly
descends, I sit here, quietly, falling
into a deep abyss of peace, stillness.
No words. No thoughts. Only the slow motion
descent into the peacefulness of God.

From time to time, I am roused from falling
through timelessness by sounds: the soft roaring
of freeway traffic; three notes from wind chimes;
a Cardinal’s steely tsit, announcing
his nightly visit to the birdfeeder.
Each time a naming thought bringing a sound
into existence. From the unity
of timelessness, a distinct world emerged.

You live by symbols. You have made up names
for everything you see. Each one becomes
a separate entity, identified
by its own name. By this you carve it out
of unity.
Lesson 184.1:1-4

I open my eyes and watch a crisp, brown
leaf break away from a branch, twirling to
the ground, now bejeweled with white splotches
of light from the fading sun at twilight.
It’s like watching a play, staged by my script.
Here’s Prospero from Shakespeare’s 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-capped towers, 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.

A madman's dreams are frightening, and sin
appears indeed to terrify. And yet
what sin perceives is but a childish game.
The Son of God may play he has become
a body, prey to evil and to guilt,
with but a little life that ends in death.
But all the while his Father shines on him,
and loves him with an everlasting Love
which his pretenses cannot change at all.
What is sin? 4

Closing my eyes, I continue my descent
into the peace of God; for a long time,
nothing registers, no thoughts and no sounds,
and then a Word, as In the beginning
was the Word
, creative action, “Read this:
Into His Presence would I enter now.” Title, Lesson 157

This is a day of silence and of trust.
It is a special time of promise in
your calendar of days. It is a time
Heaven has set apart to shine upon,
and cast a timeless light upon this day,
when echoes of eternity are heard.
This day is holy, for it ushers in
a new experience; a different kind
of feeling and awareness. You have spent
long days and nights in celebrating death.
Today you learn to feel the joy of life.
Lesson 157.1

As I read this passage, I experience
the meaning of metaphor—to carry
beyond. The direct experience of peace
is carried in the words, the joy of life,
a touch of heaven, eternity, truth.

Today it will be given you to feel
the touch of Heaven.

. . . and walk into eternity a while. 3:2

. . .and having joined your will with His this day,
what you are asking must be given you.
Nothing is needed but today's idea
to light your mind, and let it rest in still
anticipation and in quiet joy,
wherein you quickly leave the world behind.

For your experience today
will so transform your mind that it becomes

the touchstone for the holy Thoughts of God. 5:3

. . .the world is quietly forgot,
and Heaven is remembered for a while.

Into Christ's Presence will we enter now,
serenely unaware of everything
except His shining face and perfect Love.
The vision of His face will stay with you,
but there will be an instant which transcends
all vision, even this, the holiest.
This you will never teach, for you attained
it not through learning. Yet the vision speaks
of your rememberance of what you knew
that instant, and will surely know again.

And now will I stride into the world, my
world, a play scripted by my vision, in
deep stillness, gratitude and certainty.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Shelley's Ozymandias: Remembering What's Real

Percy Bysshe Shelley, the Romantic poet (1792-1822) was inspired to write the sonnet, Ozymandias, after seeing the broken colossus of Ramesses 11, an ancient Pharaoh of Egypt (1099-1069,BC).

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
(Shelley, 1817)

In this sonnet, the obvious irony is that at the time Ozymandias commissioned the sculptor to create his statue, the king's vast empire was visible everywhere, a great kingdom filled with treasures; yet, now the trunkless legs of stone/stand surrounded by nothing but desert.

This sonnet, almost 200 years old, retains its power because it reminds us that nothing in earthly form will endure.

Jesus tells us this in a lyrical passage in Matthew.

Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and
rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:

But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth
nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:

For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
(Matthew 6:19-21)

And then, just in case we didn't get it the first time, He tells us this again in His Introduction to his unworldly masterpiece, A Course in Miracles.

Nothing real can be threatened.
Nothing unreal exists.

Herein lies the peace of God.

What is real is formless--Love, Joy, Truth, Peace, Serenity, Tranquility, Grace, Heaven.

What is unreal takes earthly form, that which we can see, hear, smell, taste, and touch.

It is not that we can escape form, being constantly immersed in it, making it up as we go along with thought-images that have no source in what is Real. It is simply a question of where your treasure is, a question of what you value. Ozymandias obviously valued the wrong things, all "things" being thought-images in form.

Jesus has us declare in the title to Lesson 133, I will not value what is valueless.
In one particular paragraph in this lesson, Jesus helps us evaluate what to choose.

If you choose a thing that will not last
forever, what you chose is valueless.
A temporary value is without
all value. Time can never take away
a value that is real. What fades and dies
was never there, and makes no offering
to him who chooses it. He is deceived
by nothing in a form he thinks he likes.

Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!

Lay not up for yourselves treasures on earth.

The question persists: In the midst of form, how do we learn to value the formless? Jesus gives us a practice at the end of Lesson 133.

I will not value what is valueless,
and only what has value do I seek,
for only that do I desire to find.

And then receive what waits for everyone
who reaches, unencumbered, to the gate
of Heaven, which swings open as he comes.

Jesus even tells us how to be receptive.

Heaven itself is reached with empty hands
and open minds, which come with nothing to
find everything and claim it as their own.

We stand with empty hands and open minds so that we can breathe in the breath of God. We ask to be inspired. "Inspire" comes from the Latin inspirare, "to breathe in." We receive the Holy "Spirit," from the Latin spiritus, meaning "to breathe, to blow." We breathe in the "animating vital principle that gives life." Say aloud right now, "Holy Spirit." This is to remind you that your voice is carried on your breath. "Holy Spirit." Voice is breath. The Holy Spirit is the Voice for God.

It is quite possible to listen to God's Voice all through the day without interrupting your regular activities in any way. The part of your mind in which truth abides is in constant communication with God, whether you are aware of it or not. The part that is listening to the Voice for God is calm, always at rest and wholly certain. It is really the only part there is. Try to identify with the part of your mind where stillness and peace reign forever. Try to hear God's Voice call to you lovingly, reminding you that your Creator has not forgotten His Son.

We stand still to be inspired, to breathe in the Voice for God. That is why I wrote in the first sentence that Shelley was "inspired" to write this sonnet, just as the sculptor was inspired to sculpt the statue, his heart was fed by inspiration, the meaning of the phrase in the sonnet, the heart that fed, just as I was inspired to write this article. I value only the formless.

I want to be infomed in form only by the formless.

Nothing real can be threatened.

But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven.

I ask for help in every moment not to forget my treasure. I ask for help to remember not to value what is valueless. I want to stay vigilant so that I do not mistake the ephemeral for the eternal, nothing for everything, the temporal for eternity.

I live for inspiration, breathing in the words carried on the breath of the Holy Spirit, experiencing Heaven on earth.

I am certain that's what St. Francis means in the first line of his great Prayer:

Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace.

To read Lesson 133, click on the link below.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

The Gospel of Judas: A Gift for Easter, 2006

Last Thursday, just before Palm Sunday, the New York Times reported the release of a remarkable document, . This early Christian manuscript surfaced after 1700 years, discovered in the desert of Egypt. The script was written on 13 sheets of papyrus, both front and back. The manuscript was a mess of more than 1,000 brittle fragments. Beginning in 2001, four scholars undertook the herculean task of assembling and arranging the papyrus fragments. A consensus English translation appears in the book, The Gospel of Judas (National Geographic, 2006).

I found that reading the Gospel is demanding and rewarding. It is demanding because words, lines, and portions of the text are missing. In the 26 pages of the text, there are 150 footnotes. Jesus speaks to his disciples using metaphors grounded in Gnosticism and ancient Jewish wisdom unfamiliar to me.

And yet, reading it is rewarding because listening to Jesus speak in the script, I can hear the same tender, loving Voice that I hear every day while reading his unworldly masterpiece, . Although in time, it appears that the two manuscripts are separated by almost 2000 years, in truth Jesus' Voice is eternal.

As I listened to his Voice in the Gospel, I simply allowed the words to wash over me, and I found that I connected in three places in particular.

The first time Jesus appears before his disciples, he "laughed." Now that got my attention.

One day he was with his disciples in Judea, and he found them gathered together and seated in pious observance. When he approached his disciples, gathered together and seated and offering a prayer of thanksgiving over the bread, he laughed. (Gospel, pp. 20-21)

Jesus knew that they were following their will, not God's, although they piously, or dutifully, appeared to be doing God's will. In the Introduction to the book, an editor, Marvin Meyer, comments.

In the Gospel of Judas, unlike the New Testament gospels, Jesus laughs a great deal. He laughs at the foibles of the disciples and the absurdities in human life. (p. 4)

The second connection occurs while talking to Judas laughs and says to him, "You thirteenth spirit." (p.31)

By this Jesus means that Judas was excluded from the circle of the twelve because his true identity is spiritual. Judas' will and God's will are one. Not mine but Thine.

Finally, Jesus says to Judas, "But you will exceed all of them. For you will sacrifice the man that clothes me." (p.43) Judas is instructed by Jesus to help him by sacrificing the fleshly body, "the man" that bears the true spiritual self of Jesus. The editor comments:

Judas finally betrays Jesus in the Gospel of Judas, but he does so knowingly, and at the sincere request of Jesus. Jesus is a savior not because of the mortal flesh that he wears but because he can reveal the soul or spiritual person who is within, and the true home of Jesus is not this imperfect world below but the divine world of light and life. For Jesus in the Gospel of Judas, death is not tragedy, nor is it a necessary evil to bring about the forgiveness of sins. Death, as the exit from this absurd physical existence, is not to be feared or dreaded. Far from being an occasion of sadness, death is the means by which Jesus is liberated from the flesh in order that he might return to his heavenly home, and by betraying Jesus, Judas helps his friend discard his body and free his inner self, the divine self. (pp. 4-5)

And from His heavenly home, Jesus now speaks to us today.

I could not have said, "Betrayest thou the Son of Man with a kiss?" unless I believed in betrayal. The whole message of the crucifixion was simply that I did not. The "punishment" I was said to have called forth upon Judas was a similar mistake. Judas was my brother and a Son of God, as much a part of the Sonship as myself. Was it likely that I would condemn him when I was ready to demonstrate that condemnation is impossible? T-6.1.15:5-9

Finally, In Absence from Felicity: The Story of Helen Schucman and Her Scribing of A Course in Miracles (1991), Kenneth Wapnick reports that on October 2, 1976, Helen asked Jesus this question, "Was there a physical resurrection?"

This is His answer.

My body disappeared because I had no illusion about it. The last one had gone. It was laid in the tomb, but there was nothing left to bury. It did not disintegrate because the unreal cannot die. It merely became what it always was. And that is what "rolling the stone away " means. The body disappears, and no longer hides what lies beyond. It merely ceases to interfere with vision. To roll the stone away is to see beyond the tomb, beyond death, and to understand the body's nothingness. What is understood as nothing must disappear.

I did assume a human form with human attributes afterwards, to speak to those who were to prove the body's worthlessness to the world. This has been much misunderstood. I came to tell them that death is illusion, and the mind that made the body can make another since form itself is an illusion. They did not understand. But now I talk to you and give you the same message. The death of an illusion means nothing. It disappears when you awaken and decide to dream no more. And you still do have the power to make this decision as I did.

God holds out His hand to His Son to help him rise and return to Him. I can help because the world is illusion, and I have overcome the world. Look past the tomb, the body, the illusion. Have faith in nothing but the spirit and the guidance God gives you. He could not have created the body because it is a limit. He must have created the spirit because it is immortal. Can those who are created like Him be limited? The body is the symbol of the world. Leave it behind. It canot enter Heaven. But I can take you there any time you choose. Together we can watch the world disappear and its symbol vanish as it does so. And then and then--I cannot speak of that.

A body cannot stay without illusion, and the last one to be overcome is death. This is the message of the crucifixion. There is no order of difficulty in miracles. This is the message of the resurrection. Illusions are illusions. Truth is true. Illusions vanish. Only truth remains.

These lessons needed to be taught but once, for when the stone of death is rolled away, what can be seen except an empty tomb? And that is what you see who follow me into the sunlight and away from death, past all illusions, on to Heaven's gate, where God will come Himself to take you home.
(Absence from Felicity, pp. 398-399)

He is risen. He is risen, indeed.

Happy .

To read a copy of the Gospel, please click below:

(In respect to laughter, I invite you to take a look at my previous blog post, "Remembering to laugh").
Time Magazine Article: Kiss of Judas

Friday, March 17, 2006

Remembering to laugh.

The great Spanish painter, Goya (1746-1828), with a sense of humor and inventive practicality, placed candles in his hat band, so that he could see to paint long into the night. In the early 1790's, he painted his self-portrait, wearing the candle hat, looking out at us with an irrepressible grin. Recently, Billy Collins, the American Poet Laureate for 2001-2003, wrote a poem inspired by this painting.

Candle Hat

In most self-portraits it is the face that dominates:

Cezanne is a pair of eyes swimming in brushstrokes,

Van Gogh stares out of a halo of swirling darkness,

Rembrandt looks relieved as if he were taking a
breather from painting The Blinding of Sampson.

But in this one Goya stands well back from
the mirror and is seen posed in the clutter
of his studio addressing a canvas tilted
back on a tall easel.

He appears to be smiling out at us as if he
knew we would be amused by the
extraordinary hat on his head which is
fitted around the brim with candle
holders, a device that allowed him to work into the night.

You can only wonder what it would
be like to be wearing such a
chandelier on your head as if you
were a walking dining room or concert hall.

But once you see this hat there is
no need to read any biography of Goya or to memorize his dates.

To understand Goya you only have to imagine him
lighting the candles one by one, then placing
the hat on his head, ready for a night of work.

Imagine him surprising his wife with his new invention,
the laughing like a birthday cake when she saw the glow.

Imagine him flickering through the rooms of his house
with all the shadows flying across the walls.

Imagine a lost traveler knocking on his door
one dark night in the hill country of Spain.
"Come in, " he would say, "I was just painting myself,"
as he stood in the doorway holding up the wand of a brush,
illuminated in the blaze of his famous candle hat.

In his poem, Collins emphasizes that Goya knew we would be amused by his silly image. He could only know this because he understood himself the absurdity of the human condition. As one critic observes, "Goya bears the light of this understanding." He goes on to say: "Beneath a dandy's hat, Goya wears an expression that his contemporaries considered satirical. His unmistakable mug with his snub nose, and smiling mischievously from beneath the brim of a curious hat, candles clipped to the hatband, he presents himself as, literally, a bearer of light--an ilustrado."

Indeed he is. His irrepressible image comes to us from over 200 years ago, reminding us to remember to laugh at the absurdity of the world that we have invented. "Absurd" comes from the Latin, surdus, meaning "stupid."

In His Course in Miracles, Jesus says it this way.

Into eternity, where all is one, there crept a tiny, mad idea, at which the Son of God remembered not to laugh. In his forgetting did the thought become a serious idea, and possible of both accomplishment and real effects. Together, we can laugh them both away, and understand that ltime cannot intrude upon eternity. It is a joke lto think that time can come to circumvent eternity, which means there is no time. T-27.V111.6:2-5

We take too seriously our tiny, mad idea that we could possibly separate from God. We can undo this seriousness by laughing. Laughter provides a moment of recognition of the absurdity of the mess we have gotten ourselves into by inventing this world. In that moment of recognition of this invention, our minds stop, allowing something else to enter in, a hint of the eternal.

The joke is on us, and we need always to be reminded of this. I am so grateful to those classic comedians whose trademark shtick still makes us laugh. They are truly light-bearers, demonstrating simply that this is not so, it is a joke too ridiculous, and in that recognition we have the opportunity realize the alternative, that we are as God created us, that we are not darkness, but light. We can exit laughing.

These are the images that come to mind of these great ilustrados.

Jack Benny gazes into the camera, deadpan, the palm of his right hand cupping his face, conveying far more than words could ever express.

Groucho Marx leers at the camera, his eyes laughing, a mischievous grin under his painted-on black moustache, exaggeratingly flicking ashes off of his cigar.

Dean Martin, handsome and suave, plays off of Jerry Lewis's screaming, petulant, mugging, pratfalling child.

Lou Costello explodes with pent up frustration, yelling "Ab. . .bott!" while Bud Abbott stands next to him, calmly.

Ricky Ricardo says sternly to Lucy, big-eyed, trying to look innocent, nervously playing with the bottom of her sweater, "Lucy, you cannot do the show."

Imagine a lost traveler knocking on his door
one dark night in the hill country of Spain.
"Come in," he would say, "I was just painting myself,"
as he stood in the doorway holding up the wand of a brush,
illuminated in the blaze of his famous candle hat.

Laughing gives us an opportunity to recognize that what we take to be reality may not be so real after all. It's like recognizing a glitch in the matrix. In the movie, walking up the steps in a building with Morpheus, Trinity and others, Neo sees a black cat walking. He glances away, then looks back and sees the cat again, walking just as he did before, and Neo says, "Deja vu." Everybody stops. After some conversation, Trinity says, "Deja vu is usually a glitch in the matrix. It happens when they change something."

The only real change happens in your mind, and laughing can create an opportunity for that transformation to occur as you experience the absurdity, the stupidity, of what you have habitually taken to be real. Seeing the glitch makes you laugh.

It is most appropriate that this is actually being posted on April Fool's Day.

It is a joke to think that time can come to circumvent eternity.

To listen to Billy Collins read "Candle Hat," please click on the link below: