08 mei 2011

Allard Pierson Continued - the Birth of Dutch Radical Criticism

In 1875 Pierson's Levensbeschouwing (Philosophy of Life) saw the light, written in Utrecht, just before he was to accept his appointment at the University of Amsterdam. Here he consolidates his positions - note that he is now forty four years of age. He seems to have consolidated a position of fundamental religiosity, in which nonetheless everything was open to critical inquiry. His religion is never fundamentalist or conservative, it is a matter of the heart that is beyond dispute, and which informs all his other interests, but is never threatened by his natural inquisitiveness. It should be noted also that besides his history of the Catholic Church, he attempted to do a survey of Protestantism, which remained essentially unfinished. The whole episode of his writing about the development of Christianity is funny in the sense that he seems to manage a level of objectivity that is enough at all times to offend both sides of the argument, but he just sticks to his very neutral course. While he appreciated much about the Catholic Church the way Protestantism opened the door to critical examination of the Bible and much else was clearly where he was comfortable, and as became clear when he left his congregation in Rotterdam, he became to critical and " modern" even for that church.

By 1877 there appears a book "A Study of the Writings of Israel's Prophets," it seems to be primarily a counter to the work of a then popular positivist thinker, Kuenen, and of less interest from the standpoint of Pierson's overall development. By 1878 it is time for some critical studies of the Jesus tradition as reported in the synoptic Gospels. Here his first evident doubt of the veracity of Paul begin to surface. His collaboration with the author of the biography on which I based this article starts in this time, first with a proofreading of his translation of Aeschylos' Oresteia, always a challenge because of the difficult Greek and the often less than perfect textual tradition. Out of that collaboration grows a joint study of the letters of Paul. Along with it they read a wide range of other classical writings in Latin and Greek. This study led to his work on six letters of Paul, titled Verisimilia, co-authored with his later biographer Naber, which was to appear in 1886 and which is a story of going back to the original texts for a full critical study, resulting in challenges to many accepted readings and assumptions.

The passages in Naber's biography, dealing with their joint study of Paul (p. 198 ff.), are priceless and worth reading in full, for here are two accomplished classical scholars, whose grasp of Greek is without equal, and even though Pierson is a theologian by training, his very independent spirit allows him to sit down for the first time and read Paul fresh, without bringing any framework of interpretation to his writings. Fundamentally they ended up with some forty major inconsistencies they found in Paul which threw up a lot of questions and were never resolved during the lifetimes of either Pierson, or his biographer. They were pulling their hair out, and studying all commentators and interpreters they could find, without ever finding much satisfaction on the issues that bothered them the most. The most difficult inconsistencies had been traditionally omitted from consideration. One of the more obvious ones was in the fact that when Paul when quoting the Old Testament quite evidently quotes from the Greek Septuagint translation, instead of from the Hebrew Bible, even while he is claiming Judaic ancestry, and from a Pharisaic lineage. The book enjoyed ample attacks and criticism, but the list of forty "tough nuts to crack," major unexplained inconsistencies, were never satisfactorily addressed by any of the critics. Fundamentally, here is a major start of the criticism of Paul, which is to become a central feature of the school of Radical Criticism in Holland as well as in Germany.

Meanwhile Pierson now has a difficult start at the University of Amsterdam, with a few very slow first years as an unpopular teacher, until he seems to find his right style of delivery for his Dutch students, and becomes quite a popular professor of Art History and Aesthetics. That part of the story is less relevant here, but the story up to the publication of Verisimilia  clearly shows how Pierson became a founding father of Dutch Radical Criticism, not to mention had a connection to the same circles in Germany. As so often much that is inconvenient gets forgotten quickly, so after the first polemics died down, the critical consideration of such traditional materials remains for the few who are not satisfied with the pat answers, and want to look for themselves. They are likely one day to re-discover these early explorers who never unlearned to feel free to question everything.

My reasons again for treating this material at some length on this blog are simply that I am aware that Kaiser was familiar with the thinking of the Radical Criticism. Specifically we find him citing the philosopher Bolland in his published work, and there were other circumstantial connections I am aware of. In short, while it seems to take forever for the Western world to understand the difference between the teachings of Jesus, which express universal ageless truth, and the Roman interpretation of his teachings, aka Christianity, which should fairly be known as the teachings of Paul. To a degree it was this type of critical thought which opened the way for the appearance of a teacher such as Kaiser, for whom it was very clear that he was a follower of Jesus, and bypassed the interpretations and speculations of Paul, whoever he was, and left them alone entirely, thereby liberating the message of Jesus from the Christian context that was retrofitted on to them posthumously.

From a more general scholarly point of view, this bit of history is important, to show how the internal inconsistencies made Paul's opus fall apart completely, and how that started happening long before the appearance of the Thomas Gospel and the understanding of the chronology of the early Gospels, including the fact that Paul would have pre-dated them made it clear for everyone to see that that none of the theological positions that define Christianity where present in the original Jesus material, but only in the later traditions which appeared after Paul. Naturally the eventual selection of the canon of the New Testament by Bishop Athanasius in 367 CE, was completely dominated by the needs of Christian orthodoxy, and by that time the Thomas materials, and much else besides, had for all intents and purposes already disappeared off the face of the earth, at least until the re-discovery of them started first through the Renaissance, but then really later through re-discovery of manuscripts starting in the late 19th century. Curiously, in our time it was the Talmudic scholar Hyam Maccoby who perhaps most convincingly showed Paul as the inventor of Christianity. Like Pierson, he stumbled over the inconsistencies of Paul's claimed Pharisaic heritage and his evident quoting from the Greek Septuagint. Meanwhile, it should also never escape our attention that Thomas Jefferson's production of The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth, from 1820, while hardly a scholarly attempt, still reflects the same inspiration that divorces what Jesus said from what Paul said he said.

07 mei 2011

Allard Pierson and Dutch Radical Criticism

When Allard Pierson attends the University of Utrecht in the mid 19th century, this descendant from rich pietistic Amsterdam merchants, was exposed both to the belief in science of the time of enlightenment, and to the first really critical efforts of Biblical scholarship, starting with a book Het Leven van Jezus (The Life of Jesus), by one Prof. van Oosterzee, which planted the seeds of understanding that the Bible was not handed down in the form of the King James Bible (or rather, its Dutch equivalent, the then authoritative "Statenbijbel"), direct from God to the faithful, but that there was a very different view emerging, which considered the very human history of the various documents that were to make up the books of the New Testament, which were not to congeal into an accepted "book," until the final redaction of Bishop Athanasius in 367, and therefore some 350 years after the time of Jesus. Thus he started to discover that the Canon of the New Testament was a manmade invention. He was deeply shook up in the pietistic beliefs of his childhood, and from then on the unity of the Bible came apart for him, in a manner not dissimilar to what happened in our own day and age with Bart. D. Ehrman, who started as a fundamentalist, but when he became a Bible scholar, saw his whole belief system come apart, and ended up in his more recent work abandoning his Christian position altogether - particularly in his book about theodicy, God's Problem.

Next to that it was a Prof. Opzoomer, who educated him in the scientific method. And so the disintegration of the unitary Bible as the presumed Word of God, came together with a new attitude of critical inquiry. Thus in 1852, as a 21 year old, he wrote a book review that was to be published in the Annals of scientific Theology (Jaarboeken voor wetenschappelijke Theologie) in 1853. In it, the emerging battle of these developments takes form, in which for now he retains his religious posture, but clearly with an open mindedness and inquisitiveness which prefigured his later development. Later, at the University of Leyden, it is a Prof. Scholten who further forms him in the scientific method.

In his 1854 doctoral dissertation de Realismo et Nominalismo (Latin was still the tongue of the scholarly world in Europe), he lays the ground work for much that was to develop later, though the thinking is still clearly immature. He then becomes a reverend at Leuven, where he stays till 1857, having a mixed constituency which required him to preach in French, Dutch, and English, and the denominations were equally mixed in his flock, ranging from Anglican to every other Protestant variety, set amidst a very Catholic surroundings. Amidst all this he continues to nurture his analytical scientific mind while retaining a backbone of deep religiosity, yet he evolves towards an empiricism which is not accepted by the religious dogmatism all around him.

Then in 1856 appears an article from his hand "Historico-critical principles. Introduction to some psychological study of the Gospels" (Historisch-kritische beginselen. Inleiding tot eenige psychologische studiën over de Evangeliën.) With this publication he moves decisively into the vanguard of critical theological thinking of his day. By this time he is moving from the confines of Leuven (Louvain) to the more cosmopolitan, mercantile world of Rotterdam, from October 1857 to March 1865.  Circa 1860 in his parlance "Israel" is the name of the religious people everywhere, in a symbolic sense, and his regard for the Bible is still always evident, despite his critical approach. He continues to advocate that his increasingly modern and pluralistic theology does have a place in the Protestant Church, but a few years hence he will resign his function. Clearly his evolution in a very critical direction remains rooted in the deep religiosity of his heart, and the traditions in which he was raised. He abandons theological dogma without abandoning his love for the Bible.

In 1865 he finally resigns as pastor of his congregation in Rotterdam. He stays for another year and a half but then moves to Heidelberg, to a villa outside of town with the name of Intermezzo. To him now traditional Christian faith can no longer be reconciled with modern philosophical inquiry. He leaves the church-bound life of which he was such an active part, always drawing a full house in spite of his being increasingly "far out" for his day. After some time he wrote a 40 page pamphlet to account for his leaving his professional position in Rotterdam "To My Last Congregation." In Heidelberg he writes a four volume history of Catholicism, notably he still feels that the essence of moral religious life is still easier within the church than outside of it. He becomes a Professor in Heidelberg. Eventually he gets an official blessing from the faculty to pursue his liberal insights, and as a full professor from 1870 on he teaches more history of religion than theology. By 1877 we find him in Amsterdam.

Notably in an 1871 article he develops a position, which he seems later to have renounced again, when he arrives at the following conclusions - I translate the summarization in the book by Naber (see below):
...Thus we should arrive at the criticism of that mode of thought [naturalism] and its core: the conviction of the objectivity of sensory perception. That criticism is of a physiological nature. What man observes is, according to newer theory, always the product of his mind, a product to which nothing objective outside of us is the cause, except for the movement of a certain medium; and in this connection it should be admitted promptly that the proposition of movement as much as of the moving medium is again our own creation. We could call this teaching properly physiological idealism. The world, as we see it, does not exist outside of our consciousness. This position does not rest on any a priori idealism, but exclusively on an analysis of the functioning of our senses; and whoever does not grasp the truth of this statement, is not lacking in philosophical development, but simply in physiological knowledge. A critique based on pure physics, after all physiological, of the working of our senses allows us to maintain the independence of the human mind in a way which forever robs materialism of its scientific character. From this point of view every law of nature becomes a law of the mind; in other words: succession of natural phenomena should be labeled an association of mental images. Het notion of cause disappears, to make place for the recognition of the objective identity of those appearances, among which we earlier assumed a causal connection, and for the determination of the sequence of events, behind which I have to imagine the force that is always identical to itself. Exactly because of the study of physics, the spiritual comes into its own: the sensory world the deed of the independent mind; that which science can recognize in the world the purely abstract, after all mathematical. Next to these two great outcomes materialism seems badly dated. The contradiction of naturalism and supernaturalism fades away. No longer is metaphysics dependent on physics. In one word, we refuse to find objective reality in the empirical world. ...
In other words, here Pierson refutes Dr. Samuel Johnson's refutation of Bishop Berkeley. The nerves that hurt when he kicked the rock, were themselves part of the perceptual universe, which merely tautologically validates itself, proving nothing. While Pierson later backed away from the stark purity of these observations, even though he retained the essence of it in other ways, it should be interesting to the reader today, that he has prior Quantum Physics, and prior to the appearance of A Course in Miracles, arrived at a metaphysical position, which given his learning at the time (having taught history of religion at Heidelberg), hews closest to Advaita Vedanta. Unsurprisingly, this 1874 article was not taken graciously by the world around him.

In his four volume "History of Catholicism" which was complete still at Heidelberg he gets to the question if Peter really founded the Church. He takes to the subject a studied objectivity in which he likes some things and not others, and finds simple that Protestantism works better for some than for others. He cannot help but note that the Catholic Church has been more constant than Protestantism which, then three centuries old, has dissipated itself in unending schisms. Here is where it really gets interesting: Pierson writes (as cited by Naber):
If it had really been the intention of Jesus to found a world religion, he would have merely shown a sad lack of understanding of the human condition. A religion which preaches only one thing: God is spirit, and the fulfillment of the Law is to love Him above all else, and our neighbors like ourselves, a religion without metaphysics, and without worship, such a religion would have been suited to the overwhelming majority of our kind... A child could believe it! ... of the early church fathers he bemoans a lack of mystical orientation, and the fact that so little of Christianity is a religion, and so much dogma.
Pierson ends up feeling that the Catholic Church in the end mostly maintained its relevance by eventual adoption of all the things it fought at first, something that is still true in our time with the budding Catholic Bible scholarship, which emerged since Vatican II, among other things. What may be most remarkable is the sense of balance which Pierson brought to his topic, such that Protestants could not love his book.

From 1874 to 1877 Pierson lived in Utrecht, before finally becoming a professor at the University of Amsterdam. For now I'll leave the story here, to be completed some other day. Pierson was to become a founding father of Dutch Radical Criticism (German: Radikalkritik) when he finally evolves to a position that breaks with Christian main stream orthodoxy in questioning much of the work of Paul. This is also my reason for discussing it on this site - the critical questioning of Paul by this group of scholars also lays at the foundation of J.W. Kaiser's feelings on the topic, likewise the seeds of a more mythological treatment of the Gospel accounts are here.

Note: The above is based on the 1907 book by Samuel Adrianus Naber, Allard Pierson Herdacht (Memories of Allard Pierson)

28 april 2011

De Bron van Jakob

JWK spreekt op diverse plaatsen over de bron van Jakob, o.a. aan het einde van zijn artikel over de geest van Jakob in de bundel De Mysteriën van Jezus in ons leven. Jakob is natuurlijk de perfecte uitbeelding van de psychologie van het ego, en als zodanig is zijn bron dan ook de ego bron. Kaiser beschrijft dit als volgt:
Wij die ons leven staag vergallen door de twintig-jaren-lange dienst aan "Laban" (onze "rijke Oom", die toch niets geeft) om dàt te krijgen wat God geven zou, indien wij zouden trachten eerst Zijn Rijk te vinden... Wij zijn die Jakob... en wij willen het niet zien!
Maar wie als een Profetenzoon zich wijdt aan Hem "die in vrijheid voert", die zal DE NAAM VAN "ISRAEL" doorzien als TIJDSGEBEUREN, dat zijn Kinderen (de "Stammen" Israëls) laat drinken uit de Bron, welks water steeds weer dorsten doet. Want die ontmoet te zijner tijd aan deze Jakobs Bron de onbekende die het Levenswater biedt. (MJL, p. 34)
Kaiser schrijft over Jakob nog (MJL p. 150):
Ja'aqob betekent "hielelichter." Hij is het beeld van de "verdringer" van zijn "broeder" uit diens eerstgeboorterecht. Als zodanig is hij oerprincipe, aartsvader, van alle in tijd gevangenen.
Toch is het God, die de coïncidentie "honger van Ezau"en "linzensoep van Jakob" bepaalde. En wij deden goed dit indachtig te zijn bij de hedendaagse "coïncidenties."  
Maar Jakob is méér. Hij is ook de dienende om zijn geluk. Hij is ook de worstelende met de Engel. Hij wordt Israël, het Tijdsgebeuren, dat al zijn kinderen laat drinken uit zijn Bron, Hij is de Ring waarin het leven in de tijd gebeeld moet worden in de Twaalf Stammen, die zijn Zonen zijn, de Dierenriem of Zodiak, die het vergankelijke bestaan der aarde en haar schepselen beperkt to varianten van projectie, van haar stand ten opzichte van de Zon.
Als de Verlosser komt, dan zal Hij door die Stammen wandelen en ze een voor een bevrijden. (Ommegang op Aarde).
De oude Israël, die voortleeft in zijn Stammen, herleeft getransmuteerd tot "volgelingen" van de Christus als de Twaalve.
Het verhaal waaraan Kaiser hier refereert is natuurlijk het verhaal in het Johannes Evangelie, van de Samaritaanse die Jezus ontmoet bij die Bron van Jakob:
Bij de bron
Jezus verliet Judea en ging terug naar Galilea. Hij moest door Samaria en kwam in de stad Sichar in Samaria. Deze stad lag vlakbij het stuk land dat Jakob aan Jozef had gegeven en daar was ook de bron van Jakob.
Jezus was moe van het lopen en rustte uit bij de bron; dat was omstreeks twaalf uur 's middags. Er kwam een Samaritaanse vrouw water putten. Jezus vroeg of zij Hem wat te drinken wilde geven. Hij was op dat moment alleen omdat Zijn discipelen naar de stad waren om eten te kopen.
'Dat begrijp ik niet', zei de vrouw verbaasd. 'Ik ben een Samaritaanse en U bent een Jood. Welke Jood vraagt een Samaritaanse nu iets te drinken?' Want Joden gaan niet met Samaritanen om. 'Als u wist wat God geeft en Wie Ik ben Die u om water heeft gevraagd', antwoordde Jezus, 'dan zou u Mij om water hebben gevraagd en Ik zou u levend water hebben gegeven.'
'Maar Here', zei zij. 'U hebt geen kruik en de put is diep. Waar haalt U dat levende water dan vandaan? Bent U dan meer dan onze stamvader Jakob? Hij heeft deze put gegraven. En zijn zoons, zijn vee en hijzelf hebben er water uit gedronken'. Jezus antwoordde: 'Wie van het water uit deze put drinkt, krijgt weer dorst. Maar wie van het water drinkt dat Ik hem geef, zal nooit meer dorst krijgen. Dat water zal in hem als een fontein worden, waaruit eeuwig leven voortkomt.' (Johannes 4:3-14)
Jakob is dus het prototype van de tijdsbevangen mens die wij zijn, immer ons lot ontvluchtende, omdat het geloof in de afscheiding en een onafhankelijk bestaan als individu ons behept met een vrees voor God, wiens vermeende wraak wij nu ontlopen moeten. Echter, eens zullen wij ontwaren dat wij ons moede hoofd te rusten leggen in het Huis van God (Bethel), en de droom van de Jakob's ladder zal ons doen geworden dat onze kortste weg naar huis juist hier is waar wij zijn, in de wereld, in al onze relaties, mits wij ons wenden tot de Heilige Geest om Leiding, in plaats van het zelf te blijven doen - en dan zullen de engelen ons dienen.

Over de Samaritaanse bij de Bron zegt Kaiser het volgende:
Doch de episode met de Samaritaanse (Hoodstuk 4) bevat diepere verwijzing naar het eigenlijke Israël. Niet naar de Tien Stammen, die het Koninkrijkje Israël vormden en voortdurend overhoop lagen met het koninkrijk Judea (inclusief Benjamin). Niet naar de British Israël Movement, met hun kunstige gedachtebouwsels, waarin zovele "idealisten" verstrikt geraken. Maar naar Israël als: door de Tijd bevangen Mens. Israël "gevallen" in het onderscheid van de tegenstellingen, Israël als Mens die voor het lokken van de Ruimte is gezwicht, Israël als Mens, die zich wel Wachter (Semer!) waant, doch nog alleen maar tijdsgebeuren als werkelijkheid kent, en dus zijn kinderen voortdurend uit die Bron laat drinken, welker water steeds weer dorsten doet. Israël het Tijdsgebeuren, dat voortleeft in zijn Twaalf soorten Kinderen als de oergestalten van de zogenaamde Dierenriem, diapositief der aardse relativiteit. Dit Israël verlossen is de Twaalf "stammen" wedervoeren naar het Huis des Vaders, naar de Eeuwigheid.
Dit thema kwam voor mijzelf recentelijk weer tot leven in een serie gebeurtenissen die mij nog eens de patronen van het ego onder ogen deden zien met name in de afgelopen 6/7 jaar van mijn leven. Daarbij werd het steeds duidelijker hoe het ego steeds maar in het zelfde kringetje rond blijft draaien, en dus in zijn herhalingsdrang steeds maar weer dezelfde patronen gebruikt - tot in het belachelijke toe - als verdediging tegen God's Liefde waar wij zo doodsbang voor zijn zolang wij in het ego geloven. Tegelijkertijd bracht mijn dierbare mede student en leraar in de Cursus het een en ander weer op haar eigen wijze onder woorden, waarin ik direct de situatie van de Samaritaanse aan de bron herkende:

(via Skype) Annelies Ekeler: Het ego bestaat uit geheugen materiaal  en wel het valse geheugen dat gebaseerd is op louter afscheidingsgedachtes. Dat is de gesloten cirkel poel, de bron waaruit het ego zijn gedachtes put en zijn gedachtes verder uitspreid over de akkers van de egodenkgeest, waar het zich vermenigvuldigt en vastlegt in tijd en ruimte en een gesloten cirkel vormt, met als enig doel de ware herinnering te doen vergeten.
Laten we aldus de onware herinnering vergeten door het te vergeven zodat de ware herinnering, het Weten, weer tevoorschijn komt.
Kortom dit is de dynamiek van de ervaring van de Samaritaanse: uit de bron van het ego kunnen wij niet anders dan oude patronen opdreggen, waarvan van te voren al vast staat dat zij ons steeds weer en steeds meer zullen doen dorsten, en de keuze van de vergeving is dus om in plaats van de herhaling en dus projectie van steeds dezelfde gedachten te blijven kiezen, ze aan Jezus te geven, en om zijn Hulp te vragen om er met zijn ogen naar te leren kijken, zodat hij ons het Water kan geven dat ons niet meer doet dorsten, en wij dus in plaats van doorgaan met projecteren van de ego patronen, de Heilige Geest mogen accepteren en als kanaal zijn Liefde uitbreiden, met achterlating van alle zelfzucht van het ego, die ons altijd weer opgebroken is. Dit is de praktijk van "There must be another way." Het is het keuze moment, wanneer wij die "andere" leraar, die als een onbekende verschijnt, vragen om het Levende Water.

26 januari 2011

Experiencing the Gospel

This is the title of Kaiser's 1950 book on the Gospel of Mark, which he regards as being the least adulterated of the synoptic gospels. It should be noted that even today for stylistic reasons alone it remains accepted fact that Mark was the first of the synoptics, and Matthew and Luke depended on it along with the Thomas and Q traditions. The quality of the text has a certain level of abstraction, and an archaic and almost unworldly ring to it, which in modern Bible translations tends to be smoothed out completely, so we have a tough time noticing it, particularly also because of the typical Christian influence on virtually all translations which smears the whole with a theological sauce that dates from 30 to 300, never mind 2000, years after the crucifixion, and has none of the freshness and urgency which we find in the original Mark, if we can access him in Greek.

Here is an account of the description by the classical scholar Günther Zuntz, as quoted in the New International Greek Testament Commentary on The Gospel of Mark by R.T. France, who says ,speaking of Zuntz:
Thoroughly at home in the literature of the Roman Empire, Zuntz, we are told, was nonetheless quite unfamiliar with Christianity and its literature, and thus came to Mark with a freshness of perception impossible to most modern Christian readers. His response thus represents, says Grollenberg,  'what this book must have looked like to an educated reader of the first century of our era.' Zuntz speaks of his 'strong impression' that 'something very important was being put forward here with a superior purpose and concentration throughout the book... The style and content of the story arouse a feeling of otherness, a feeling that this is not a history like other histories, not a biography like other biographies, but a development of the actions, sayings and suffering of a higher being on his way through this anxious world of human beings and demons.'
I am quoting this passage for the sake of the present day reader who reads his Bible in translation, in which the original quality of an other-worldly urgency which educated readers have perceived in Mark over the centuries is utterly lost. The homogenized and pasteurized language of all modern translations, originally driven by the theological dogma of the oneness of the Bible, has obliterated the freshness of the original for modern readers. Kaiser keenly observes and appreciates these qualities in Mark, as to him it was clear that storytelling of this time in the classical world was less in service of historical and temporal accuracy of the manifest story line as in the service of expressing the spiritual truth that was being shared with the reader or listener.

Kaiser's book is both a fresh translation and a commentary as well as an esoteric paraphrasing of the narrative, which focuses on the latent content (meaning), as opposed to the manifest content (the story). His translation is unique because it does strip out the theological distortions of the Pauline tradition, and restores the freshness of the original account as much as humanly possible. Kaiser's is truly the only modern translation of the book I've ever come across in any of the four or five languages which I (more or less) read which even attempts this feat.

Having studied Kaiser for some twenty-five years before I found A Course in Miracles, I have now increasingly begun to experience that his work is more accessible to me, after working with the Course for about twenty years. The fundamental approach Kaiser takes is very much in line with the teaching in the Course which recognizes that the world is but an outside picture of an inner condition, as follows:
   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. (ACIM:T-21.Introduction) 
From the outset he views the Markan account as the reflections of a follower of Jesus on his experience of him, expressing the inner events in language and imagery accessible to the reader, thus clothing timeless inner experience of the Master of all Masters in the apparent events of his own life time, without losing that abstract quality of something of an unspeakable otherness which is a constant reminder to the reader of the calling of the voice of the Master to follow him, by turning to what A Course in Miracles would call our own Internal Teacher.

My co-writer on this blog recently reported to me a dream experience of the twelve apostles, and twelve gospels, each having their own individual account of their experience of Jesus, in which eventually she realized that she had her own experience of the gospel, "the good tiding." The twelve apostles, as much as the twelve signs of the zodiac, simply represent all of humanity in archetypical form, in our capability of either following the ego, or following Jesus, when once we hear the call. After all, our stories are all very different but the experiences that come our way as we turn to that Inner Teacher end up always being the same in content, for to us, the awakening from the dream is a process in time. Thus, as much as the world is the perceptual substitute reality which we "see" as long as we choose the ego as our teacher, the Kingdom, or in Course speak the Real World, is what we "see" when once we choose Jesus or the Holy Spirit as our Internal Teacher, and the gospel is the way we experience the journey of transition from the former to the latter. And, in the Course, Jesus assures us that his was merely an extreme example and we will not have to repeat his experiences, though we certainly relive the pain of the crucifixion to one degree or another as long as we keep choosing the ego as our teacher.

Thus the story of Jesus is not the story of some dude who was born in Bethlehem 2000 years ago, it is rather the reflection of the birth of Jesus within all of us, as we turn to this little babe of Bethlehem within us, who of course is not welcomed in the world, and there will never be room at the inn, so that he will be born in relative obscurity somewhere, in a manger, in a stable with the animals. A good 20+ years after Kaiser, the Course will describe this process of inner birth as follows:
What danger can assail the wholly innocent? What can attack the guiltless? What fear can enter and disturb the peace of sinlessness? What has been given you, even in its infancy, is in full communication with God and you. In its tiny hands it holds, in perfect safety, every miracle you will perform, held out to you. The miracle of life is ageless, born in time but nourished in eternity. Behold this infant, to whom you gave a resting place by your forgiveness of your brother, and see in it the Will of God. Here is the babe of Bethlehem reborn. And everyone who gives him shelter will follow him, not to the cross, but to the resurrection and the life. (ACIM:T-19.IV.C.10)
   In the New Testament literature, Jesus constantly - and in vain I guess - reminds the apostles that it all comes to us in parables, and that he wasn't speaking of "breads," including wondering out loud how come we do not get it -- don't you STILL understand that I was not speaking of BREADS??? But we stubbornly persist in taking him literally. Our entire culture is based on it, because the Christian "religion" is baked into the very fabric of Western culture, never mind which variety you or I grew up with. So one way to look at the difference between Christianity and the teachings of Jesus is that Christianity revels in the manifest story, and adapts it to the point that it becomes a world religion, suitable for Caesar and his minions, while Jesus teaches us to watch only the content, and the inner process, in following him to a Kingdom not of this world.

Once we start listening for the latent content - the meaning - instead of the manifest content - the story - it becomes clear that Jesus was not born in Bethlehem (the house of bread), 2000 years ago, but Jesus is born within us in our "house of bread," in the forms and circumstances in which we partake of the heavenly bread after our own fashion, as and when our soul gets totally fed up with the ways of the world and rebels against it (Mary), and of course there is "no room at the Inn" and he is born in a manger - out of the way, away from the business of the world - and his ministry within us begins only when he wakes up to the full realization that he is/we are God's beloved son in whom he is well pleased. And his ministry within us starts as/when we show up as his students/disciples, and through him learn that this is who we are. On this path he is our older brother, who merely went before us in realizing his true identity as God's son, inviting us all to follow him on the journey home. And so we will eventually all re-experience the gospel in our own way, the forms will be as different as people are different, but the content is always the same, for it is a learning process, in which we gradually follow his example of awakening from the dream of "this world" and "my life," to the awareness of who we really are as the son of God, as the prodigal sons we all are, looking for our way home from the strange lands where we got lost after we ran away from home. That is the promise of the Gospel.

And just like the apostles were called up by Jesus from their habitual ways of making a living, and that was symbolic, for his intention was not literally dropping the work of your hands, but figuratively no longer doing it the way we always did it, namely with the ego, but rather now to follow Jesus instead of the ego as our teacher, and become an instrument for peace. Again the temptation is always to act things out in the world, in form instead of making the change of mind, which is what Jesus was always talking about. Likewise, as Jesus makes very clear in the Course, he does not ask for sacrifice - such is only the ego's fear - for how could giving up nothing, namely a plan which we already know is bound to fail, be a sacrifice of any kind, when instead we can accept the peace of God, and total spiritual abundance, regardless of what things look like in the world? The process of following Jesus is a process of unlearning to do things the old way, which never worked to begin with, and learning to do them his way, where we place our faith in spirit and not in the things of the world.

This means that what's in store for us is that finally we'll start having ears to hear, when we stop mistaking Jesus by believing that he's talking to us as individuals when he says "you" - he is always addressing us as whom he knows we really are, the son of God, awakening from the dream - different from him only in time, but never in eternity. So, as our elder brother, who has awakened before us, he whispers in our ear and sings us a lullaby, while we still writhe in pain in our nightmare.

The journey home is about "forgiveness," namely about relinquishing the judgments which uphold the ego's world, in favor of the love of the Holy Spririt. Here is how Jesus says it in Lesson 23:

    The idea for today introduces the thought that you are not trapped in the world you see, because its cause can be changed. This change requires, first, that the cause be identified and then let go, so that it can be replaced. The first two steps in this process require your cooperation. The final one does not. Your images have already been replaced. By taking the first two steps, you will see that this is so.
    Besides using it throughout the day as the need arises, five practice periods are required in applying today's idea. As you look about you, repeat the idea slowly to yourself first, and then close your eyes and devote about a minute to searching your mind for as many attack thoughts as occur to you. As each one crosses your mind say:
I can escape from the world I see by giving up attack thoughts about ___.
Hold each attack thought in mind as you say this, and then dismiss that thought and go on to the next.
    In the practice periods, be sure to include both your thoughts of attacking and of being attacked. Their effects are exactly the same because they are exactly the same. You do not recognize this as yet, and you are asked at this time only to treat them as the same in today's practice periods. We are still at the stage of identifying the cause of the world you see. When you finally learn that thoughts of attack and of being attacked are not different, you will be ready to let the cause go.

or as Ken Wapnick summarizes it in his commentary to the work book, titled Journey through the workbook of A Course in Miracles:
To briefly summarize these steps:
1) I bring back within my mind the guilt I have projected onto you;
2) By looking with Jesus, I bring my mind's guilt to him, in which instant
3) the guilt is gone, for I have accepted the love and light that was already present but had been concealed beneath the darkness of my guilt, protected by my attack thoughts.

In psychoanalytical terms the process is to make the unconscious conscious, but not with some psychoanalyst, but with Jesus as our teacher. For the psychoanalytical path ends up in rolling around in the dirt with the other pigs in the pigsty, and perhaps becoming more accepting of it, but never getting real release. The process of letting Jesus teach us, means letting it go and gradually accepting his love instead. It takes us a while, because we are attached to our dirt - as Byron Katie says: Who would I be without my problems? - they are our shield against the love of God. The forgiveness process of the Course, which is simply what Jesus always taught, but restated in a more modern form, is the way out of hell for us, and we wake up to our reality as brothers and sisters in God as we are reborn as who and what we really are, namely God's creation, his one-born Son, Christ, and not the dream characters in the dream of the world, which we made up ourselves.

Shakespeare evidently was an awakened soul, and he said it as follows:

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

Or as the french philosopher said: God created man after his image, and then man returned the compliment - i.e. we made up God to reflect how we think of ourselves. (See Voltaire: Si Dieu nous a faits à son image, nous le lui avons bien rendu.) Thus the creator God of Genesis is the made up God who we project to justify our seeming existence in the world, and he is the cover over the real God who is our creator and source, as spirit. In the Bible these two concepts are often mixed up, because there are so many authors in it, but a.o. in the book of Job, this is clearly described, in terms of when Job stops listening to his "friends," i.e. stops listening to the advice of the ego, our old self, and starts listening to the Voice for God. At that point in the narrative, the word used for the name of God changes, because Job is then awakening to the real God. To what the Gnostics might call the "God above God," or if you would the real God above the limited human concept of God.

And so, in the end, the undoing involves transcending our fears for the vengeance of the ego's God, to return to the love of God, which is our true source, and the essence of who we are. And in the end it turns out to be what the Course calls a "journey without distance to a goal that has never changed." (ACIM:T-8.VI.9:7)